designer & shopkeeper ross longmuir

It's a testament to the quality of Ross Longmuir's work as a furniture designer that the origins of his business, Planet, go back to 1991. He set out to build furniture with Australian hardwoods in Melbourne, where he was based at the time, and encountered many naysayers for his vision. Determined, he persevered and today is not only a designer but also encourages others in the homewares industry by selling their products alongside his furniture - always with an eye on sustainability. Today the store in based in Sydney, with a recently launched presence online.

Which five words best describe you?

Funnily I don’t really have the objectivity to answer this question! I guess that I’m sort of chaotic but disciplined, creative but hardworking although sometimes I’m pretty lazy too. Quirky things make me laugh and mostly I’m afraid of being boring. Probably I’m over-sensitive.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since?

Twenty years ago I fell in love with furniture design and found that there wasn’t much going on in Australia. In design I always want to make sense, so I began with solid Australian hardwoods, sustainably sourced. Established furniture makers said that this wasn’t possible, so I spent five years researching materials and techniques and found that with the right approach, solid Australian hardwoods can be a spectacular success.

In 1998 I opened a retail showroom to present my vision in my own way. In order to support friends who crafted homewares, I decided to display their work alongside my furniture.

Planet now has an extensive collection of furniture classics and we offer a bespoke and full design service. There are always new pieces of furniture being added to the collection. I am now also developing a range of porcelain vases, soft furnishings using fabrics from around the world and contemporary floor rugs handwoven, employing traditional skills. We still show work from more than 70 other makers.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way?

Listen to your own truth.

What’s your proudest career achievement?

Being able to satisfy clients through creativity. There is genuine delight evident in response to our pieces so often. It’s so great when people instinctually respond from the heart to something that is original. My work is an attempt to highlight beautiful, sustainable, pure raw materials that are finely crafted into useful and original forms. It is life affirming that it is also possible to make a business successful while not compromising creativity or originality.

What’s been your best decision?

By deciding that the world is a bountiful place and that it is not greedy to hope for enough, I firmly believe that we each can be creative by choosing what is good.

Who inspires you?

So many people! Musicians have so much power to change my world daily. I love Pinchgut Opera in Sydney. In particular it's breathtaking that so many people can do the right thing at the right time! Great artwork expands my comprehension. With my own design, I often think “what would Gerrit Rietveld do?” Great architecture is often inspiration for me to create particular pieces. Pierre Chareau’s Maison de Verre is a special favourite.

What are you passionate about?

So many things! Originality is exciting and inspires others and elevates us all. Individuality should be treasured and celebrated. We all live in such different ways with different values and pioneers out on a limb create the most significant benefits to others. Natural fibres just make sense; they are beautiful and last but still excite me. Centuries of experimentation have given us knowledge of materials that have huge benefits that nourish our environment.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet?

Whoopi Goldberg would be so much fun to hang out with. Her forthright sense of humour mixed with such a strong sense of self and great energy is spectacular. She seems to be concerned about moral issues but isn’t at all uptight. On Broadway, a while ago, I saw her in a production of Xanadu on roller-skates! It’s cool that we share a birthday too.

What dream do you still want to fulfil?

I’d love a big garden. It would be fantastic to nurture an environment and have all that green energy around you every day. But I am happy living in the city right now with lots of people interacting, so that will need to remain a dream for a little bit longer.

What are you reading?

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. I’ve rediscovered my love of India recently and a client recommended it to understand more of private family life. It’s about family interactions, just after partition. The common link between different locations, cultures and families is the potential suitors for a daughter. It’s about the largest book I’ve ever contemplated (p1127 currently) and is fascinating. I have some Raj-era Indian blood myself and have travelled there three times for a total of five months so far. To me India is more a collection of countries and with 1.2 billion people, it fascinates me how it operates so well with such cultural diversity.

images courtesy of planet; portrait via ernest fratczak