“Radical” is the word the Melbourne-based furniture design brand Steelotto uses to describe its ethos. Alexander Cummins and Remy Cerritelli met when working in furniture sales together and soon discovered a shared, unapologetic penchant for the type of “Eurotrash” aesthetic that can turn a design product into a fetish object. Steelotto — “steel” and “otto” (eight in Italian, historically referencing a world order) — was conceived as a design brand before it even had a product to offer.
Locally sourced Australian steel is the obvious hero, powder-coated and executed in a jolting spectrum of colours and textures including violet, brick, ultramarine and, more recently, bianco Carrara marble and snake print vinyl.
But steel, that sterile, structural stuff? Cummins and Cerritelli are still often met with bewilderment when reminding people that good-looking furniture can indeed exist without a trace of Tasmanian oak. Others are in raptures over the brand’s gutsy drive to bridge the gap between industry and artist, with a client and collaboration list including the likes of Aesop, Nike, Otis Armada, NGV Design Week, Modern Times and the Atomic Beer Project by YSG, Sydney.
“It’s pretty simple, no-one is championing steel,” says Cummins. “We take advantage of the quality of Australian steel and the value of local manufacturing, and we want to see how far we can push the material in a design application and what other materials we can combine it with in exploring visual variety.”
If a shameless pash of colour or the sheen of an ’80s manicure on your furniture makes you uncomfortable, then, scusi, time to loosen up. Servicing both residential and commercial clients, Steelotto’s offering includes the signature Chubby Stool and Bench, the Atomic Table, the B.U.T (Bolted Upright Type) Shelving System and the Wilson Tray, “designed for fun, not for food”, although a cluster of oysters naturale rather fancy it as a daybed.
“A lot of people have different interpretations of what ‘radical’ design is or which era they attach it to,” says Cerritelli of the brand’s modus operandi. “We use it in the context of Australian design, reflecting how Steelotto sits outside this paradigm.”
Whether you sit on a Chubby Stool at your local haunt or complete your tax return on a snake print 75 Table, it becomes apparent that a Steelotto product is not just a piece of furniture. It’s a design object, a topic of conversation. Sure, natural hues and industry trends are great sources of inspiration for furniture design applications, but then again, so is a 1983 Moschino Couture! collection and a Leonetto Cappiello artwork.
“It would be easy for us to say we get our inspiration from natural beauty and waterfalls, but we don’t. Inspiration for us comes from immersing ourselves in the energy of subcultures from fashion, art and beyond. It ends up being very subconscious,” says Cerritelli.
In the right hands, a cut, polish and paint makes steel sexy. With orders rolling in and about two custom projects per month — including the odd request for a riot shield, a fruits de mer platter and a hand sanitiser holder — Steelotto has gusto, and it’s turning heads across the country.