Philia Kailis of Test Tube Objects
Urban Walkabout talks to Perth's local talent, giving you an insight into the passionate people behind amazing businesses. We chat with Philia Kailis, owner of Test Tube Objects about form vs function, keeping our homes looking good and the inspiration found both locally and abroad.
Tell us a little about Test Tube.
We are one of Perth's original design stores, opening in September 2006. Our range is handpicked from throughout the world and many designers are represented exclusively at Test Tube. On June 1 this year we launched our online store that allows users to shop from their home/work and also create wish lists and gift registries when they register an account.
Where do you source your products? What do you look for when sourcing?
The majority is from Europe - mainly Scandinavia, Germany, Italy the UK then some select designers out of the U.S.
We have a mantra of 'The Ordinary: Less Ordinary' so when searching for new items I keep this in mind and also ensure that the quality of the product is exceptionally high in which ever field of design it is from. The quality of the glass and ceramics from Europe are unparalleled compared to the made in china items I see so much of. I also look for pieces that are timeless and unique and any brands/items that have a particularly interesting story behind them such as the Cire Trudon candles, which date back to the 1600's and continue to grow their incredible selection and story.
Recently you asked Cale Mason to create a film for the launch of the new website and online store. What drew you to this idea?
Cale was visiting Perth for a short trip before returning to New York to continue his work as an Art Director. He's really talented and found himself picking up work from a number of high profile businesses in need of someone with his sort of vision and skills. This led him to stay in Perth, so I asked him if he would be interested in creating a short film to show on the night of the online launch. It was an exciting prospect as I don't know of anyone else producing work like this for a retail store. Cale created a film that gave life to the otherwise static pieces in the shop with the aim to show how these beautifully considered objects could help transform any space.
What's more important - function or form?
Well I’m an advocate of form and function in combination and this makes up most of the items in the shop. We are all guilty of having too many things but if we can simplify or homes with functional and beautifully formed pieces I think we can eliminate our collections of otherwise dull and lifeless items that sit around the home performing one function. For example, I have an iconic Stelton watering can that I display for its intriguing beauty and the added bonus to have as a handy reminder to water the plants!
What's your favourite space in the home and why? Anywhere that does not involve clothes and homewares, which I collect a lot of. So, for me it's the bathroom. It's so clean and functional! I'm a little bit of a hoarder and I think a lot of people struggle with too many items cluttering up their homes. The bathroom is the one space, which I manage to keep simple as I only need a few items that I use regularly and replace when finished, it's also the only place that is completely filled with design items from the shop.
What's the key to keeping our homes looking and feeling interesting?
A rotating mixture of items, with a slight colour theme, that can be put together to create a unique and warm space. If you have a very sleek look it can make the home feel cold: it’' important to have textured pieces that will bring life into a room and mix into your everyday homewares creating interesting visions throughout your home. Succulent plants also create a great feature as you can utilise different vessels (such teapots or vases) and are easy to look after.
Who are your favourite object designers and what are some of the most interesting that you have sourced?
I was in Berlin around Christmas time and stumbled upon Alexis Ohler's Betonware concrete bowl collection. His casting process makes each bowl unique and he creates incredibly smooth lines with a commonly difficult material to work with. I have a pretty hefty list of favourites but Pia Pasalks concept-based porcelain works which we recently started representing, Ron Gilards Designfenzider sculptural and functional pieces, Maxim Velčovský of Qubus design studio and Arne Jacobson who was originally trained as a brick layer but went on to create Stelton's infamous "Cylinda-line" collection among other things.
What is your favourite product currently at your store? Why?
There is incredible ice bucket from Portland's Esque Design Studio. It's a one of a kind thick hand blown glass piece which looks and feels like an actual ice block.
What have been your biggest challenges?
When you own a small business you end up wearing a multitude of hats and forgetting to stop work every now and then. You get very attached to being involved in every part of the business and it can be challenging to let go a little and delegate where possible. I'm learning now to step back a little and seek help when it's needed. Building the website was also a big job as there was over 600 items to load but the back end of the system is quite easy to maintain so most of the initial hurdles have been smoothed over.
Who or what inspires you? Who do you admire from here or abroad?
The Internet and travel. Locally, I admire dynamic businesses such as Highs and Lows, they have created a Perth shoe hub that goes beyond what is offered in the rest of the world. The owners are smart, hard workers, who I see continually evolve their business and increase their devout following of sneaker freaks!
The net inspires me because of the wealth of knowledge I have gained from there. It's a great way to find new designers and learn about what is going on throughout the world. You can pretty much tailor and entire degree of information by searching different blogs, places or people that interest you personally and filter out the information you don’t need.
Travel is still one of the best ways to learn about the world and other cultures. I love living in Perth but you can not beat the bout of inspiration you get when wandering the cobblestone streets of an ancient place and experience something different in another culture, it can really change your perspective on life and make you want to exceed your own expectations.
What's Perth's best kept secret?
If I tell you I’m afraid it might become too popular but I'll give you a bunch of clues. There's a peacock and a petit hound, you can have great food and buy incredible flora, the blue house from the 90's.
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Shop 6, 595 Beaufort St (cnr Chelmsford Rd), Mt Lawley
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