ANITA Jones and Carlo Malaca are in love – with each other and the humble wooden shipping pallet.
Together they have tackled close to 1000 pallets, de-nailing them, tearing them apart, tidying them up and transforming them into statement pieces of furniture for any space, each time demonstrating how something that would normally be discarded can be created anew and built to last.
They do so through boyandgirlco, the Canberra company they founded after doing what many would think insane – quitting secure full-time jobs for the unknown.
The major transformation in their lives started when the couple, while driving home after a weekend in Sydney, decided “enough was enough”. They had dined at Kitchen by Mike in Rosebery, a simple canteen serving honest food. No fancy-pants restaurant dining. Nothing pretentious about the place.
Anita and Carlo felt at home in the canteen and were fascinated with the raw wood pallets used in the décor. They decided to adopt a similar philosophy and “waste not, want not”. Simplicity would be their aim, starting with their living environment. They sold their bulky Balinese-style furniture and replaced it with furniture they made with their bare hands out of recycled wood shipping pallets.
Working initially out of their garage, Anita and Carlo created their first piece, with no carpentry training and a few basic hand tools.
“Looking back, the huge dining table we cobbled together was overly ambitious for a first project and ‘clumsy to the max’,” says Carlo.
“But it was soul satisfying and confirmed we had made the right decision.”
A few pieces later, and with confidence building, the couple found friends and family placing orders and realised they had a business in the making.
When bursting at the seams, boyandgirlco moved out of the 40-square-metre home garage and into warehouse space that was twice as big but soon after outgrew that space, too.
In August the company set up home in a 485-square-metre space in Mitchell, combining a massive workshop, office and future showroom.
Boyandgirlco source pallets mainly from importers but refuse to use those treated with chemicals.
“Importers are willing to give us pallets since it saves them time and money in returning or disposing of them,” says Carlo.
“We end up providing them with a service and helping the environment by avoiding the pallets ending up in landfill. We’ve seen it ourselves in a local waste management centre. On one visit we saw a mountain of wood piled at least five metres high and about 20 metres across. What a waste.”
Boyandgirlco now includes Graham Rose, who designs and is head builder, and Victor Tawagi, who handles marketing and communications. The team does all the work themselves. It is physically demanding but rewarding to refurbish, repurpose and rehome.
The standard range of furniture is growing steadily and includes coffee tables, an eight-seater dining table, office desk, light box with storage and planter boxes.
“We call it our standard range but in reality no two pieces are alike because no two pallets are alike,” says Carlo. “Each piece has its own character.”
Boyandgirlco also handles custom orders and, to date, custom pieces include a fruit market stand for Autolyse Bakery’s juice bar in Braddon, which includes fruit crates and stools that pack away into a lockable main unit.
For homeowners, boyandgirlco have made a sofa table, tripod side table, entrance table with slots to store footwear, queen-size bed head, light box with shelf and a 4.8 metre-long vertical garden with built-in planter boxes.
Anita and Carlo have never looked back and have much to look forward to, including boyandgirlco’s first exhibition – “anew” (October 10-October 26, Nishi Gallery, New Acton).