She collaborates with her partner, Glen Oldfield, who is a composites expert, and as a team they are building an export-focused business.
“With my work, I attempt to fill a real need, rather than just flooding the market with something new,” explains Forlano.
Forlano’s sense of purpose is nudged along by her partner, whose work in composites research and development brings new materials to her attention.
“Glen does a great deal of prototyping and one-off production for industry. We originally collaborated to produce a range of products that would help his business ‘tick over’. I develop the product ideas and designs, and he resolves the production issues.”
Feeling strongly that the traditional heavy dining table was no longer suitable for everyone – given the ageing population, the fluidity of indoor/outdoor lifestyles, and the increasing number of apartment dwellers and single-person households – Forlano set about designing something lightweight and compact out of composite.
“With the Lux table, I wanted to create a sense of movement in a static object, to engage with the viewer. The structure was designed to be strong, stable, flat-packable and easily assembled, while appearing to be the opposite – light, fragile and one holistic form.
“The shape was inspired by forms in nature that taper towards the edges. Both the legs and the tabletop taper, enhancing its visual lightness and creating a sense of movement, a sense of ‘growing’ or being extruded out of the earth.
“To minimise its environmental impact and create a light-looking piece, production uses minimal materials. The largest table (2400 x 1200 mm) in the range weighs only eight kilograms.
“There was a lot of prototyping to push the material, form and production techniques as far as possible. Working with carbon fibre is very much a prototype-and-test process because there is very little available data to refer to.
“At times, we had to deal with unexpected outcomes, like when the table produced an audible hum and lightly oscillated if tapped, much like a guitar string. We definitely weren’t expecting that to happen! Eventually Glen resolved the construction issues to dampen the movement and noise, while still retaining the design intent.
“The construction utilises a pre-impregnated carbon fibre rather than a dry fibre cloth (which requires a wet lay-up). This reduces the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to virtually nil during production and also reduces construction time.
“It is then laid up by hand and cured in an industrial oven. This results in low energy consumption during the construction process. Carbon fibre as a raw material does have a high embodied energy, but the production process is such that the added energy to make the product is actually very low.
“I hope that with such a hardwearing surface, and a simple and timeless form, that the table will be valued and retained as a classic.”
Export potential was at the forefront of Forlano’s plan for the table, so the design had to be ship-friendly and easy to assemble.
“The minimising of shipping costs (financial and environmental) was important, and another reason to make the legs and tabletop as thin as possible. The top is only twelve millimetres thick and the legs are forty millimetres in diameter at their thickest point.
"As a result, the table can be flat-packed and easily assembled. Each leg simply screws into the top, with no tools required. For a product of its size, it packs down to a very small package and is well suited for export.
“We are now in contract-negotiation stage with a Swedish manufacturer that will produce Lux for the European and North American markets this year, and market the table worldwide.”
Forlano says that she and her partner dreamt of selling the production process and design but didn’t expect it to happen so soon.
“It’s an exciting project for Glen and me. We were fortunate enough to meet with one of directors of the Swedish manufacturer at the 2004 Milan Furniture Fair. We then caught up with him again in 2006 when the product was more fully resolved, and he was keen to gain the license for production.
"It’s so exciting to see the product develop to the point where it can be mass-produced and marketed; it’s certainly something we couldn’t do on our own.”
Lux is the second furniture range Forlano has developed for her partner’s business. The first was the Linea range of occasional tables and shelving.
“I wanted to provide a solution to designing with carbon fibre and exploiting its inherent strength-to-weight ratio without resorting to highly biomorphic forms. I felt that some of the carbon-fibre furniture on the market at the time was so visually eye-catching and unique that it dominated a space and had limited applications.
“As an interior designer and furniture designer, I felt if I was going to work with Glen on a carbon-fibre project I would want the solution to be classic and timeless, to sit well in a range of interiors yet still demonstrate the qualities of the material.
“We also wanted the product to be competitive in the marketplace so, with the high cost of tooling and patternmaking for complex forms, simplicity was definitely the way to go.
“Glen worked on developing a construction technique to cut down on man hours and I worked on a table and shelving design. The result was a profile of nine millimetres at its thickest point and two millimetres at the edge, and a sharp radiused edge for the table leg detail.
“The designs are extremely simple but do evoke some curiosity. We regularly find people wanting to look under the tabletops to see how they are supported!
I love the power of an object to raise questions; it keeps the audience engaged and interested in the work.
“A designer friend of mine has likened the Linea and Lux tables to a ‘pair of classic black trousers’, which explains the design intent very accurately I think.”
The inspiration for Forlano’s Wild Creeper coat rack came after looking for a coat rack for a client – and not finding anything suitable.
“I practise as both an interior designer and product designer, and many of my product designs emerge from not finding exactly what I need for an interior. Most items on the market had an industrial aesthetic, or were free standing, which didn’t suit my client’s needs.
"I wanted a rack that would be functional during winter but that could act as a beautiful wall sculpture for the rest of the year, when the coat rack would hardly be in use (particularly in Perth).
“I assumed that if I wanted this product, there were probably others wanting the same. So I did some market research and set about designing a product that could be flat-packed and mass-produced for the retail home-ware and furniture markets.
“My aim was to design something that could be manufactured in a variety of materials to suit different tastes. I also wanted to outsource the production, and to package it easily for the retail market.
“Aesthetically, I set out to design something that could sit as a piece of art on the wall, a dynamic form with a sense of movement. I wanted something that users could interact with and arrange in their own way, so that the consumer would have a sense of connection.
"Having a dynamic form was not only about being able to move and reconfigure the shape; I also wanted the design to look different from the front and side, as you move around it.
“At this time I had an obsession with the Garden of Eden (I have no idea why). After a few prototypes, I resolved the product into a sculptural form that alluded to a plant rooted to the wall, with its tendrils creeping into the home – hence the name.
“It’s obviously quite abstracted from that idea and, as it turns out, people see different ‘things’ in it. Some see it as quite musical, like a treble clef; others as baroque inspired, or coral-like. I certainly didn’t want it to literally look like a plant, so for it to be read in so many different ways and connect with people’s interests is really satisfying.
“In developing the design, I tried to forget about all coat racks and hooks that I had seen before. I focused on a way of elegantly providing a hanging solution that was suitable for compact environments yet sculptural and dynamic when not in use.”