Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes. When considering a career change, sometimes all one needs to do is to look at what their holding for that flicker of light. In Steve Laub of Porter & Maple's case, it was as simple as a cup of coffee that altered his path.
BANKS: So Steve, how did your company come about?
PORTER & MAPLE: P&M came about through a desire to start doing something that I knew I would and could love to do for the rest of my working years. At 28 and almost 10 years in residential building I was already getting bored which was a scary thought for me, so I tried to build something that could be a job that never failed to keep me entertained.
Where are you based out of?
We are currently based out of Sydney's northern beaches with the majority of our jobs being in and around Sydney's CBD.
By the looks of some of your more recent fit outs, symmetry and working with sharp angles seem to play a big role in your work. What have been some of your favorite jobs in the past and where do you find inspiration for them?
I think symmetry is what makes sharp angles and simplicity beautiful. I'm a huge fan of minimalism and open spaces, enough space to stand back and see something from every angle. We did a space for Five Senses, a coffee roasting company that started in WA, they wanted to open a Barista Training Academy in Sydney and we got the opportunity to work with Ben Bicknell from Five Senses to create a Coffee dreamland. Every detail was thought up from scratch and brought to life out of pure intrigue to see how creative we could get in large space. Figuring out how to make new and different things out of all types of different materials is where I find inspiration.
What are some of the challenges you’ve had starting Porter & Maple from scratch?
Well I didn't have any money set aside to start a business initially but I knew I wanted to give it a go, there was a period of about a year where P&M was my second job, I'd work all day on a building site doing my regular work at the time, and then I'd have a small break and head straight to a storage garage that I had rented to start the night shift doing small and super low paying projects just to get my name out there. The next challenge was trying to figure out when I had enough work to make the jump and quit my day job. I'm pretty lucky to have a super supportive wife who encouraged me take those early risks.
What are some of your favorite materials to work with and why?
We like working with all kinds of materials and like to keep them pretty raw. We're predominantly woodworkers but we've done a lot of work with steel and recently a stack of jobs with precast concrete by collaborating with the guys from Concrete Bespoke. The shapes that you can form up and create are only really bound by your imagination and your ability to create complex moulds, so that's been a lot of fun. We're also working with local ceramicists, Magnolia Mountain, as well as florists, Ffolium on a few of our current projects and upcoming jobs.
A lot of your concentration seems to be in the coffee shop realm, too. Any particular favorite local cafes that you haunt?
Yeah, we definitely love coffee! The whole industry is pretty interesting, we got into the cafe fit outs partly due to our love for well designed cafes and partly due to a lot of our friends already being in the coffee industry either as baristas, roasters or merchants. We did a fit out for Artificer Specialty Coffee about 18 months ago and I think this has become everybody's favorite place to get a super clean cup of coffee. Other favorite would have to be Paramount Coffee Project.
What are some current projects P&M is working on?
We're currently doing a couple of large boutique production houses which is cool, the spaces are so big and vast and feel limitless. We're also finishing off a sleek, little hole in the wall cafe for Neighbourhood by Sean McManus which will look pretty tasty with a mix of Oak and Walnut throughout. We've also got a fair few upcoming projects that are in the design stage at the moment but look like they're going to keep us pretty busy as the year goes on.
How do you approach a new project when given a blank canvas?
Simplicity is how I like to approach a blank canvas. Sometimes it's tempting to try and pack in a whole bunch of ideas and stuff but I think this ultimately just looks cluttered. For this reason we love working with architects and designers as much as we can, there is nothing more satisfying to us than executing a concept that has been well thought out and purposefully designed.
Does sustainability play any part in your work when designing a fit out or furniture?
Definitely. Most of the sheet products we use are certified by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and the majority of hardwoods we use are locally sourced. Where we can we also try to reuse as much building product as we can to reduce waste that goes to landfill.
5 lessons you’ve learned along the way:
There's always another way to solve a problem.
Make time for stuff outside of work.
Work with likeminded people.
Save for Januarys.