A new riff

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“I love custom-made bikes, I love dark stuff and if I could purple-velvet everything I probably would.” So proclaims Massimo Buster Minale – founder of furniture and lighting brand Buster+ Punch. He is one of a small tranche of designers bucking the minimalist Scandinavian trend and embracing the lavish and sexy side of design. Photographed by fashion photographer Anthony Hill, his new collection – Hooked – is straight out of a 1980’s rock video: dramatic, beautiful and dark, whilst only narrowly avoiding the high-camp.

Hooked is a collection of lighting and furniture which is based on ‘rock and roll and custom motorbikes’. The items are indulgent – chairs upholstered in black padded silk; humorous – a whiskey bar using parts of a snake’s tank; and glamorous – lighting designed to look like the volume knob on a Gibson guitar. Immaculately detailed, heavy and solidly crafted, Buster+Punch’s pieces are the antithesis to the bland, mass-produced minimalism which has been peddled out to the general public over the last twenty years:

“In Victorian times people painted their ceilings – just for decoration – pure decadence. Nowadays everything has to have a function first and then it is what it is” Minale laments. “Buster+ Punch is all about ‘just cause we can’ – it doesn’t need to have a button there – but it looks fucking nice, so let’s have a button there: It’s that sort of attitude.”

Throwing away the modernist handbook might seem just a touch flippant, but if anyone is qualified to do it, Massimo Minale is. What his wide London accent belies is the fact that Minale is design royalty. The son of legendary designer Marcello Minale, Massimo trained as an Architect at the University of Cambridge and worked for big names Richard Rogers and Foster + Partners before starting his own design agency –  Minale+Minale – with his brother in 2003. Ten successful years on designing luxury homes for the rich and famous, Minale is ready for a new challenge. A new director has joined the design agency – now called Minale + Mann – and Massimo’s focus is now Buster+Punch.

Not only is Buster+Punch’s product completely different to anything currently on the market, it is also branded in a completely different way. Taking their cue from fashion, Buster+Punch will have an annual collection which, like Hooked will be presented as part of a whole lifestyle: “If you open any interiors magazine, everything’s photographed on white, even if it is interesting, they just make it boring – it’s cut out of its setting” says Minale. Buster+Punch won’t be making the same mistake. As part of the Hooked collection they have created a limited edition cafe racer motorbike which will accompany them to various shows.

Keen, also, not to alienate the very customers who have influenced them, Buster+Punch have designed something for everyone. “Our brand is built around skater kids and guys who make little motorbikes and artists -so we’re gonna sell all of these little parts separately – the furniture buttons, handles, lampshades – so a guy who can’t afford the three grand whiskey bar can buy a bunch of these bolts, a couple of handles, go to their Ikea kitchen and rock it up a bit.”

So what does Minale think about Ikea? “I don’t mind Ikea – they make cheap stuff that’s cool. But if you go to Scandinavia, a young person buys their flat, they get some Ikea furniture and then they paint it, or they add bits on. We’re all about customising things – custom motorbikes, sticking stuff on things.”

In fact, this is exactly the point at which Buster+Punch started. Clients from Minale+Mann were looking for something interesting to furnish their new homes with and finding nothing out there. So Minale set up a workshop in East London where, along with some friends, he started creating new designs – either from scratch or by customising existing furniture. The Wingback Remix is an example of this – a customised version of a chair by James UK.

In the near future Minale also plans to open a series of concept stores, starting in his current home, Stockholm. Here, shoppers will be able to choose the components for their own Buster+Punch product and watch as is realised in a workshop on the premises. Minale enjoys the idea of involving people in the process – of creating something which, if not completely bespoke, is at least individual.

Individuality and customisation is something that Minale hopes will be carried into the home with his products and, as such, has designed them to be displayed and used in a variety of ways: Each pendant lamp comes with a brass hook which can be used to move it around the ceiling, change its height or hang it from something else. They can be displayed with or without shades in a range of colours and textures.

Minale’s passion is evident – he is full of ideas and has already bagged some major names to collaborate with on next year’s collection. The future of Buster+Punch is certain to be varied – one of the unconventional, the unexpected, of reinvention and full of fun: Rock and Roll.


Collaborations in the pipeline – definitely one to watch.

Will be showing at Clerkenwell Design Week – XYZ stand

by Emilie Lemons 

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Glass Online architecture and design writer

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