With a whimsical iteration on minimal design, Milkcart continuously breaths new life into the furniture industry.
No matter the decade, simplistic Scandinavian chic is a classic design aesthetic that will remain a timeless piece in any home. When it comes to the beauty of this style, Milkcart is one of our favourite brands — we can consistently count on them for quality and authenticity. As lovely as they are talented, creators Ryan and Marine McKnight present a vision for handcrafted pieces that open new life into old ideas. We sat down with the duo to discuss the philosophy behind their esteemed collections, what propels their process and why shopping small-businesses is of the utmost importance in today’s overly saturated mass-produced marketplace.
TELL US A BIT ABOUT HOW THE IDEA FOR MILKCART ORIGINATED. HOW DID YOU DECIDE ON THE BRAND NAME?
Milkcart grew very organically, right from the beginning. Ryan and I needed furniture for our new house — I knew what I wanted, couldn’t find it in shops — and Ryan suggested I sketch it out and he would build it.. So from our back shed Milkcart was born. A few months later, in a random inner city traffic jam, a Dairy Farmer’s van was sitting in front of us while we were suggesting names for our new venture. “Milkcart” popped into my head, and the name stuck.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE YOUR MAIN INFLUENCES WHEN CONCEIVING A PIECE OF WORK?
We are heavily influenced by Mid-Century and Scandinavian designs, but the idea for a design usually comes when I realize a need for a particular object in our lives. For example, the TurtleShell was conceived in bed! I was sick of piling books under my laptop when I was watching Netflix, so I asked Ryan to make me a breakfast tray, but our house is so small that I wanted it to double as a side table. And hey presto, it is now our biggest seller!
WHAT IS YOUR DESIGN PROCESS LIKE?
I come up with the idea and describe my vision to Ryan, who is way more practical than me. He talks measurements and materials and puts together a prototype. We live with that for a while to decide if it joins the rest of the Milkcart items, or is discarded. As a result, our house if full of rejects and prototypes!
WHAT PART OF THE PROCESS EXCITES YOU MOST?
We just love when it all comes together simply! There are so many facets to tick off to make the design successful — aesthetic, functionality, ease of creation, availability of materials, cost of shipping, etc. and when all of these things align, we know we are onto something!
NOW MORE THAN EVER, WE BELIEVE IT’S SO IMPORTANT FOR SHOPPERS TO REMEMBER TO SHOP LOCAL, OR HANDCRAFTED BRANDS. AS YOU FALL UNDER THIS GENRE, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU FACE IN AN INDUSTRY THAT’S THRIVING OFF OF MASS PRODUCTION? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PERKS?
It is very hard to compete against the current trend of mass production, but so we try not to, and instead offer a slightly different niche with customizable designs. There’s also a bit of a backlash happening within the industry — although some of the super cheap replicas may photograph well on Instagram, the moment you compare the quality of any of the imitation products, you know the difference. So we try to aim for a slightly different market. For people that are happy to pay a bit extra knowing that their items are handmade, in Australia, and the money that they spend on it helps pay for our kids to have soccer lessons, rather than go straight to the pockets of the large corporations.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE YOUR VALUES AND ETHICS WHEN IT COMES TO DESIGNING?
Ryan and I tend to lean towards a holistic approach to designing our furniture, created via a collaboration of the two of us. If we see that a big retailer has copied us again, we will subtly change our design to separate ourselves from them. We have chosen not to outsource anything, try to source materials from other local family businesses and keep sustainability in mind because when it comes down to it, it’s literally just us in the workshop with a pile of raw materials waiting to be made into a piece of furniture…and we want that furniture to be a reflection of our ideals.
WHAT DO YOU REGARD AS YOUR GREATEST SUCCESS IN YOUR JOURNEY AS A BRAND THUS FAR?
Our greatest success is that we made Milkcart out of nothing, with no previous design, marketing or business experience. It has been a learning curve with lots of ups and downs, but has sustained us as a family for nearly two years now, and is only getting easier and more fun with time.
WHAT IS YOUR BRAND MOTTO?
Perfect imperfection. But our personal motto is “Do what you love.’ Everything else will follow.