Studio Visit

Zachary Frankel: A 'Curious' Maker of Sculptural Furniture + Objects, Inspired By The Past

Melbourne designer Zachary Frankel is undeniably one of the most impressive talents in our local design scene.

The local maker cut his teeth in woodworking, crafting pieces for local brands, before diving into the world of design about four years ago. And having experimented with everything from sculpture, to furniture, lighting, and homewares in his own practice, he’s never looked back.

Below, Zachary shares an inside look at his beautiful studio, and the eras of history that have inspired his diverse, bold and sculptural creations.

Christina Karras

Step inside Zachary Frankel’s light-filled studio. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

The Melbourne designer, sculptor and maker works with everything from timber, to recycled plastic and now stone, in his experimental practice. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

The man himself surrounded by his beautiful creations! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

An impressive line-up of Zachary’s work, featuring the Chain Plinth, the Ripple Mirror Small and Lay Lady Lay Sculpture. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

After his training to be a jeweller his fine arts degree, Zac ventured into furniture making with woodwork. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Both bold lines and curvy forms feature across his unique range of stools and side tables. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

The Fold Side Table, Fold Side Table: Black Gloss, and Flute Side Table stand proudly beside Zachary’s stools from his Tessellate collaboration. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

His studio is inside the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking, where Zachary also sometimes teaches furniture making. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

‘I generally look to the past for inspiration for my work. There is an infinite amount of references to draw inspiration from and sometimes it can be a simple detail that sparks the imagination for a whole new piece,’ he says. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Zachary working on a new wooden creation! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files


‘I also have a studio in Wonga Park in an old apple orchard storeroom that I use for making sculpture.’ Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

‘Sometimes I’m designing and producing work that’s been commissioned or doing batch work of made to order pieces and other times I’m doing sculpture work without an end goal in mind.’

This means he can be working on anywhere between up to 20 pieces at once, and other times he might be focusing soley on one.

Float Coffee Table. Photo – Courtesy of Zachary Frankel

Photo – Courtesy of Zachary Frankel

The popular Ripple Mirrors referencing antique furniture techniques and Art Deco style! Photo – Courtesy of Zachary Frankel

Crinkle Lamp. Photo – Courtesy of Zachary Frankel

Christina Karras
17th of February 2023

It’s hard to define furniture designer Zachary Frankel’s style. That’s because he’s dabbled in a bit of everything since starting his own experimental practice a few years ago, creating sculptural pieces and objects that aren’t restricted to a singular look, medium or material.

For some, mastering one thing is hard enough, but Zachary says he’s been led by ‘curiosity’ across the two decades that he’s been a working as a maker. He originally trained as a jeweller, but found himself drawn to the ‘tactility and utility’ of furniture, and started crafting wooden pieces, before turning his mind to design.

‘That mentally opened the door to a range of other things including sculpture and lighting, and led me to explore other materials like stone and recycled plastic,’ he notes.

‘I also came back around to metals like brass, bronze, steel, and aluminium. I spend a lot of time playing around with new techniques and materials, which has led me to where I am now.’

It means every day in Zachary’s light-filled studio – in the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking – looks different. Sometimes he’s using hammers and chisels to slowly hand-carve his Fold Side Tables and colourful Ripple Mirrors. Other days he’s creating custom commissions, or utilising professional turners and CNC operators.

The time it takes to create his pieces varies a lot, too, ranging from between two and up to 20 days. But one of the defining themes that’s woven throughout all the versatile designer’s works, is his interest in the past.

‘Some of my references in the last few years have been from the Art Deco period,’ Zachary says. ‘I’m drawn to the simplified and bold geometric forms.’

Other inspirations include antiques from Chinese dynasties, and prolific Italian designers from the 40s-70s like Vico Magistretti (who created the famous mushroom-like Oluce Atollo lamp!), Achille Castiglioni, and the mid-century works of Paolo Buffa.

‘While their visual styles are quite different, they all honour the past, look to the future and have an element of irony and joy, which is how I look at my own work,’ Zachary adds.

And maybe that’s the best description for Zachary’s own overarching aesthetic – pieces that feel boldly contemporary, with nods to the past.

Shop Zachary Frankel’s work online here.

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