onoffice talks to architect Massimo Buster Minale, who founded his lighting company to bring some gritty rock’n’roll realness to interiors
Massimo Buster Minale was an architect at Foster + Partners, Richard Rogers (latterly RSH&P) and his own practice Minale + Mann, before setting up Buster + Punch, arguably the most rock’n’roll design studio in the business. At London Design Festival, the studio launched Electricity, a collection of solid metal light switches, first editions of the Buster Bulb (a filament lightbulb) and a range of solid metal bulb casings called Heavy Metal. We spoke to Minale about the new work, and why he believes he offers an alternative to the “super boring” interiors market…
What made you design a light switch?
We’ve started to pick up forgotten products and reinvent them, like our handles. No one’s done a light switch for a hundred years, and yet these are things that everyone touches. In a digital age, where everyone’s on their phones, touching a solid metal switch is really appealing. It’s been one of our most successful things; at pre-order [stage] we sold 2,000 switches in a week.
What’s the inspiration behind the Buster Bulb?
We’ve been working on this for a year and a half, trying to find an answer to the filament bulb, which everyone loves. It has one 3W LED that lasts 50,000 hours, and this patented [tube] inside, so it chucks light downwards, for over desks, as well as outwards. It’s still cool and decorative, but useful as well, and lasts about ten years.
What about the Heavy Metal casings?
We’ve always been metal guys. We’re the only company in Europe that does solid metal products, everyone else’s is plated. Heavy Metal has three finishes: steel cut with whisky, smoked bronze and copper soaked in olive oil, and each of them ages in different ways.
What’s next for the studio?
Next year we’re really punting mixed metals. In the past, people put chrome everywhere and said you should never mix metals, but we’re saying that’s the future. It’s more exciting and eclectic. [With] all of our light switches you can mix brass with steel, smoked bronze with steel, all sorts of things; the glass bulbs also have a metallic tint in gold, smoked bronze and silver.
You’ve really gone full throttle (ahem) on your distinctive look. Was that a risk starting out?
As an architect I got caught making Scandinavian white, neutral stuff, and I got bored, because by night we were making motorbikes and furniture for rock stars, using leather and black and metal. Everyone was playing it safe and we thought it’s about time for something darker, more daring. We feel this is a very London look. Projects now are darker and Victorian is back in, and that’s where we sit. We’re trying to position ourselves between interiors, fashion and music, because the world of interiors is super boring, and it takes so long to bring out new products, whereas a fashion house will reinvent itself every season.
If you make the crossover between fashion and music, you open yourselves up to a much bigger market. We’ve just launched some new boots, so we get people saying, “I love your boots – ah, you do light switches as well!” We’re doing the trophies and set design for the Q Awards this year, so you get all the rockers saying “they can do my house.” It makes it a lot more exciting than just design geeks that read Elle Deco. We’re trying to just get past that.
You’ve really hit the jackpot when you get the everyman – the guy that’s never looked at a light before then goes and buys your light. That’s what we’re trying to achieve.