Jem Selig Freeman and Laura Woodward of Like Butter in their Kensington workshop. Photo – Lucy Feagins
Jem’s in-house mini photographic studio! Seat MKI stool. Photo – Lucy Feagins
Plyangle Bachelor desk and stool by Like Butter, designer by Jem Selig Freeman.
Plyangle storage crates by Like Butter in various configurations
Melbourne is all about plywood. I put it down to the incredible prevalence of teeny tiny, super indie little cafes, shops and bars in this busy city. Establishments which, lets face it, are more often than not kitted out with maximum enthusiasm and minimal budgets. Plywood is a cheap and cheerful solution to many a low-budget decorating dilemma. It looks great (even unfinished), it ain’t too pricey (depending on the grade you’re after), and it’s incredibly versatile – from floor to ceiling cabinetry, to freestanding furniture, wall cladding and even flooring, basic plywood can be used for just about anything.
One clever local design duo who’ve been flying the plywood flag proudly for many years now are Jem Selig Freeman and Laura Woodward of Like Butter, a multidisciplinary design and fabrication studio based in Kensington. The business was formed in 2007 after Jem, an industrial designer by trade, and Laura, a sculptor, took a naive leap of faith and invested in a CNC plasma cutter, shipped all the way from Nevada, USA.
‘We were fed up with slow, expensive quotes on laser cutting from the outer hebrides of Melbourne, so getting our own machine seemed like a good option’ says Jem. ’But then came a foolish exercise involving domestic 10 amp power and a tiny shed in Coburg’ he recalls! Not easily deterred, this industrious pair eventually found their feet in 2008 in a small studio in Footscray, making all manner of things for events, installations and architectural commissions (their first was a custom steel balustrade for a residential interior design project). ‘With no real intentions we suddenly had a business that was carving out a small corner of the ‘we can make anything‘ scene’ says Jem.
And make anything they can! In 2009 Jem left his part time role at respected design studio Moth Design, who have since become a regular Like Butter client. The pair now base their business from a bustling workshop and office space in Kensington’s Ironside Studios, regularly employing skilled contractors to work alongside them. They divide their time between commercial and private commissions, and developing their own range of affordable lighting, furniture and storage pieces.
Like Butter’s versatile furniture range is almost entirely constructed using plywood. Their simple handcrafted storage crates start at $24.00 each, whilst their popular freestanding ‘The Shelves‘ unit is another very basic yet supremely handsome design, perfect for either residential or office use, and insanely affordable from $630.00. EXCELLENT work.