One of a Kind

Traditional woodworking and contemporary style intersect in the bespoke work of Tāmaki Makaurau furniture studio Philbe Design.

One of a Kind

Traditional woodworking and contemporary style intersect in the bespoke work of Tāmaki Makaurau furniture studio Philbe Design.

In 2014, Phil Horner set out to build a rentable sleepout in the back garden of his home in Onehunga, Tāmaki Makaurau. As a talented woodworker, the side hustle made sense for the Irishman: a way to put his skills and spare time to good use. However, things didn’t go quite as planned. As he toiled away, demand for his day-to-day work – making handcrafted cabinetry and furniture – began to swell. Before he could even consider shifting a bed in, the sleepout was rebranded as a workshop, and Philbe Design took off.

“We focus on high-end bespoke design,” says Horner. “Philbe is about giving people something that’s truly unique, that they’ll never see anywhere else.” Having quickly outgrown the backyard shed – and three subsequent spaces – Philbe landed in its current 500-square-metre Kelston workshop. Here, the full-service studio brings its contemporary pieces to life from concept to creation, producing unique furniture handcrafted to its customers’ needs and tastes. “I think the way we work is a better approach for longevity and sustainability,” Horner says, “because you get exactly what you want and it’s made to last.”

The studio specialises in one-off furniture pieces but projects run the gamut from charcuterie boards to complex custom cabinetry. Its back catalogue includes bespoke furniture commissions for a roster of Aotearoa’s finest architects and interior designers, along with the occasional high-profile hospitality fitout, high-spec bathrooms, and even the odd kitchen. Demonstrating diverse scope and style, the studio applies the same adaptability to its design-and-make service, where it collaborates with clients on exclusive, one-off works.


“We have quite a specific style, and incorporate traditional woodworking methods into contemporary designs,” explains Horner. They’re time-honoured techniques he picked up years ago during his Irish apprenticeship building cathedral pipe organs. After further training in the United Kingdom making classical guitars, he moved to New Zealand to produce furniture for superyachts. This foundation informs the studio’s precise detailing and intricate joinery, and is being passed on to the next generation of apprentices.

The studio’s innovative approach has captured attention online, where more than 30,000 Instagram followers watch the team transform ideas from sketch to render to real life. “It’s great that so many people are interested in what we’re doing,” says Horner. “But the nature of the industry is somewhat exclusive and expensive, so we also wanted to create something that would allow more people to be a part of our story.”

What transpired is Philbe Objects, a collection of considerately designed and impeccably made household items. There’s the delicately waved Jacket serving tray, the narrow, wooden Elba dish, and the ribbed Desiree charcuterie board – the Irishman named them all after potatoes. “Ahh, yeah,” he says. “I just think that people take themselves too seriously in this industry. We wanted to poke a bit of fun at ourselves… in a classy way.”

 This story was produced in association with Philbe Design –

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