Taking the frustration out of flat-pack

Anna Gilhooly was horrified when she saw the price and quality of bunk beds when shopping for her two young children, so she took matters into her own hands.

Her Hutt Valley startup, Plyhome, is hoping to take the blood, sweat and tears out of flat-pack with its range of eco-friendly kids' furniture.

Gilhooly had the idea for the business 11 months ago, when she approached craftsman Rips Cassels about designing a custom built bed for her children.

What started as a scribbled sketch she took to give Cassels an idea of her vision, turned into a product range of high-tech furniture.

“It was just great luck that we were introduced to each other at the right time, and we had the same design style,” Gilhooly says.

Gilhooly has a background in corporate marketing background and Cassels’ background is in engineering. He takes over the design and manufacturing side of the business.

Both are lovers of flat-pack furniture but decided the concept needed some reinventing. They developed a simple slot-together connection method to make assembly easier and to do without metal parts, screws and Allen keys.

“Parenting is hard enough, we wanted to create something simple to use, and even kids can make them.”

With the potential for kids to bite furniture in mind, all materials are non-toxic and eco-friendly. Plans include using recycled HDPA (milk bottles) because the material is strong and sustainable.

The range’s ‘hero product’ is the four-way cot, designed to adapt with a baby’s changing needs. The debut collection also includes full-sized beds, bunk beds, toddler tables and a bench seat.

Photo: Clive Ralph

Gilhooly used her instincts as a mother, and surveyed other parents to find out what is most important about the functionality of children’s furniture.  The cot has been designed to accommodate back injuries, which make reaching down difficult. Guardrails and safety features prevent bigger children falling out of bed.

Still in prototype stage, Gilhooly and Cassels are looking to start launching the product next month, with the products being fully available before Christmas.

The biggest challenge is keeping the manufacturing costs down, while still maintaining quality and affordability.

“We want to get the pricing right before we launch, it’s important to us that a lot of people can afford to buy our products.”

The long-term goal for Plyhome to reach an overseas market. While flat-pack furniture is widely available overseas, Gilhooly believes there is a gap in the market for affordable, easy to assemble, non-toxic children’s furniture.

“I’m really confident in the demand for these products and we’ve had overwhelmingly positive responses so far.”