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Bamtino: the future of furniture design?

There’s something magical about making your own furniture. The smell of freshly cut wood, the feel of working with your hands, the sense of accomplishment of completing a project, the nostalgia of connecting to a simpler time in human history… it can be quite intoxicating.

But not all of us have the skill – or time – to carve tables and chairs. But we still want, for lack of a better term, nice stuff. The problem is, nice stuff is hard to find – and expensive.

A Kiwi startup is aiming to shake things up, while also updating one of the oldest forms of business transactions (someone giving another someone money to make something) into the modern era. Bamtino is a website that puts people who want furniture made in touch with furniture makers, with an emphasis on bespoke, custom-made furniture.

“What we’re trying to do is flip the model of trying to find furniture to fit [clients’] space,” says Bamtino co-founder and CEO Adrien Taylor.

“It’s wonderful to have something custom-made. Quality is really emphasised.”  

Based in Christchurch at the Lightning Lab business accelerator, the company puts customers in touch with furniture makers through its website, where briefs posted show a client’s budget, space, and what they want made. Furniture makers can then reach out and make the products.

“We’re just trying to streamline the process of finding a maker,” explains Taylor.

“We wanted to personalise the whole experience. It’s a very user-friendly, intuitive process.”

Image: Co-founder and CEO, Adrien Taylor, and Jonathan Wong, CTO, Bamtino. 

Taylor says the idea for Bamtino came to him 2-3 years ago, when he was working in Auckland as a TV reporter.

“Making furniture has always been a hobby of mine,” he explains, adding he began making furniture for himself before friends and family started asking him to create pieces.

The company moved into Lightning Lab several weeks ago, which Taylor – who grew up in Canterbury – says has been a natural fit for the startup.

“Every day’s a little bit unexpected,” he says of his experiences so far.

“That can be in the most amazing sense of the word and the most terrifying sense of the word. We’re just living, breathing Bamtino 24/7.”

Bamtino has just two employees – Taylor and co-founder and CTO Jonathan Wong – at the moment, but there are plans to expand.

The company will be pitching to investors at the end of Lightning Lab on November 5. Taylor says they hope to raise $300,000 to $500,000 for marketing and possible expansion into the UK and Europe.

But Bamtino’s primary market is still Aotearoa.

“We’re really focusing our attention in New Zealand,” Taylor says, adding about $20,000 worth of furniture is currently being made for Bamtino clients

The rise of social media site like Pinterest have played a large role in shaping Bamtino’s business, explains Taylor. Clients will sometimes see things on social media that inspires them, and then come to Bamtino and ask if it’s possible to have something similar made.

One Christchurch-based client, Taylor says, wants a table made from a log cut in half and put on steel brackets. He says the client saw something on social media and wanted something similar, albeit made with a New Zealand native tree.

“I think more people are getting inspiration for their homes from Pinterest or Facebook,” says Taylor.

“We’ve been over-saturated with mass-produced, generic stuff. We’re seeing a shift back to the bespoke.”

His experience with Bamtino also means Taylor has some advice for other Kiwi startups.

“Go out there,” he says.

“Do your homework. Get as much advice as you can. And go out and give it a crack.”

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