Growing up on the NSW Central Coast, Dustin Fritsche’s flair for craftsmanship emerged as a teenager, as he fashioned surfboards with mates in a garage. ‘That made me realise that I really liked to be making things. I didn’t have much of an idea of what I wanted to pursue after school, so I found an apprenticeship in Lennox Head,’ explains the cabinetmaker, who was fortunate to team up with a boss who passed on a wealth of expertise in timber work.
Driven to take his passion further after a few years on that job, Dustin enrolled in furniture design at Melbourne’s RMIT. In the 12 months since launching his own business, Softer Studio, he’s built a fledgling label with a few prototypes into a recognisable aesthetic, which we’ve seen pop up in some of Melbourne’s coolest homes.
That said, this is still very much a labour of love and one-man show. When we visited the furniture maker’s shared workshop in Alphington, the design that started it all was front and centre. Shorter Stool had been on Dustin’s mind since his third-year apprentice days. ‘It felt like there was a cafe boom at that time, and there were a lot of replica Tolix stools around. I though it would be great to have a locally made, stackable piece at an attractive price point to give people another option than those fakes,’ recalls Dustin. And so, Shorter (and its Taller sidekick) in low-waste CNC-cut birch ply came to the rescue.
Another thrifty seating option of note is Softer Studio’s Thicker Chair, in American Ash or customisable as desired. The original prototype was made from odd-shaped offcuts that were lying around. ‘I didn’t have a chair in my range when I was about to launch, so I tried to design one with what I had, but also consistent in theme – it’s fun and has a bit of personality!’ says Dustin.
Most of his best ideas come to him on the cusp of sleep, if they can be remembered in the morning! One unforgettable concept is the still-in-development coffee/dining table that made its debut at Fringe Furniture, attracting lots of attention. A versatile piece, it can be set at two different heights, and holds particular appeal for smaller apartment-dwellers who don’t have space for a separate dining room, just like Dustin, myself, perhaps you too?
‘I’m just running my own race, trying to figure out what I like, what other people might like, and keeping to that,’ tells Dustin. He does, however, hint at the release of new, more mature designs in early 2019, as well as his ambitions to make furniture pieces with global appeal. While Softer Studio may have emerged every-so gently, we’re confident, it’s on the cusp of making some serious waves!
See the full range at Softerstudio.com or snoop his custom orders and stay up-to-date with new releases by following @softer.