This week we spoke to Arkade Furniture about all things styling, furniture, their journey in the wedding industry, and the importance of celebrating your gathering intentionally. Setting the scene for a wedding impacts the flow of how the guests interact, how they transition from dinner to dancing and how the general atmosphere is set. Essentially choosing the styling of wedding furniture is considered by having a clear mood or vibe that embraces everything you are as a couple. But space is also a decider on how you set up your venue.
Arkade have blown us away with their love for travel, and a passion for rituals around sharing food and culture. Translating this genuine understanding of what it means to gather family and friends to a celebration into their intentionally curated collection of furniture and their all round investment into creating a dreamy day for all lovers.
Onshore and local NZ-made pieces from manufacturers and mills nearby we feel have been a beautiful endorsement of what it means to support local. Founders Si & Sophia take us on a journey to Italy and other regions that tell tales of their inspiration and we couldn’t be more excited to have a seat at your table and inspire your wedding planning with this tell all feature.
Tell us about yourself. How did your journey start in events and furniture?
Arkade was started by Si & Sophia, photography duo from Bayly & Moore, back in 2015 after they’d spent a lot of time in Europe photographing some beautiful weddings (think old Italian villas in the mountains full of folding chairs from the 50’s and huge trestle tables) and wanted to bring that style of long-table gathering and celebration back to Aotearoa.
Collaborating with a handful of great local furniture designers in Auckland to perfect a distinctive but simple steel and wood trestle table that could be made locally, they paired it with some beautiful imported European folding chairs and Arkade was born. – it’s a Danish word (appropriate for furniture) that, fairly obviously, means a place to collect all kinds of wonderful things. Brendon joined the team not long after and has been key in developing and executing locally made designs while ensuring the day-to-day magic of servicing events around the North island happens seamlessly.
Where do you source your furniture from? Do you source NZ made?
We’ve put a huge amount of effort in to ensure our key pieces are designed and manufactured locally right here in Auckland. Our steel trestles, bench legs, lounge frames and modular leaners are designed and fabricated locally while our Monterey Cypress table tops, bench runs, and leaner tops are milled just up the road and assembled and finished in our own workshop in Avondale. The famous Good One stools (designed by Al Keating here in NZ) are made just down the road and our tiled bars and plinths are made downstairs. All of these locally made goodies are paired with some select pieces that we import ourselves; wooden folding Daensen chairs from France, Tolix stools, Danish box frame chairs, all the things that we find difficult and uneconomical to make here in NZ are sourced from overseas.
Do you draw inspiration from different cultures and international furniture? If so, what origins inspire you most?
Arkade was born out of experiencing the most classic of Italian long dinners. Beat up old folding chairs pulled up to long runs of wooden tables laden with dishes and wine in the overgrown courtyard of an old villa under the stars, huge olive trees drooping over and loved ones passing each other their favourite food and spilling wine as they pour bottles across the table. Beautiful, effortlessly classic, not heavily styled or trying too hard, but just a beautiful frame around the outside of all the people you love.
We continually draw on those experiences of how people gather at important times when it really matters, what it feels like to look across the table to the people you love, the feeling of generosity when the table is chock full of food, and all the easiness and warmth of always having a seat at the table. We’ve had some incredible nights like this around the world that have filled the heart. From castles in Scotland to courtyards in Italy and village squares in Cyprus, all the way to South Pacific islands with steaming umu baskets dumped out on the tables or huge summery picnic spreads by a southern lake or braided river, all of these things have inspired us to want to offer a selection of things that’s the perfect set of raw materials for gathering, partying, loving, and celebrating.
What are the most popular 3 items you have?
Our range is roughly divided up into Drinking (leaners, stools, braziers and bars), Dining (tables, chairs, benches, and hand made ceramics), and Lounging (our locally designed and made modular lounge sections). They all get pretty solid attention across the range but there’s no doubt that our modular leaners, the Daensen wooden folding chairs, and our signature Arkade trestle tables are the items that come in and out of the truck the most.
Leaners are an obvious go-to for almost any event due to the huge amount of things they can be used for, and our modular leaner comes in a few different finishes – from raw industrial steel with a plywood top, to white or dark grey powder coated steel matched with kauri or rims tops. They’ve got defined strong lines that pair beautifully with our Tolix or Good One stools and bring structure and order to any size space.
The Daensen chairs are a house favourite with everyone at Arkade and we’re all secretly dying for them to get another 50 years of age on and look like those old Italian chairs that we were inspired by years ago. These are a fan favourite because they’re quick and easy to set up or pack away into their custom road cases (nothing like a 1am quick pickup to make you appreciate a good system), they look classic but with sleek modern lines, and the dark wood brings a beautiful anchoring note to any colour palette.
And last but not least, the trestle table is a style that’s centuries old and keeps on giving. Our steel trestles were designed in conjunction with NZ furniture supremo Mike Grobelny to provide a minimalist silhouette and to give the appearance of the Cypress top floating in space. It also gives maximum leg room underneath and can absorb the occasional bout of table-top dancing in the rain (yes, more than once). We adore them because of their ability to match up into a perfect long run of a dozen or more tables, giving you a seamless looking banquet feel like you’ve just stepped out of a Spanish feast. We’re also pretty pumped on how the wood’s raging over time. We’ve recently refinished them and the colour and depth of the grain is starting to work some visual magic.
What style of wedding has been your favourite to be involved in?
We love any wedding where it’s full of the heart and soul and personality of the couple at the centre of it all but we’ve got a soft spot for when the truck pulls up onto someone’s Uncle’s farm and there’s 50 friends going hard to convert a toolshed into a wedding venue, or putting up a marquee on a coastal clifftop where the family’s had their holidays for five generations, or even just handful of tables being delivered down a narrow pathway to be crammed into someone’s backyard as they make intimate magic happen on a tiny patch of lawn.
There’s been a few tears of joy cried in the cab of the truck late at night on the way back to the warehouse after we’ve stayed on for a few hours to help someone just ‘make it happen’ as they’re pulling their big day together in some wild place that they love dearly. It’s the people with huge hearts and big dreams that get you every time.
Have you experienced any notable challenges during your time in business that you’ve grown from?
Without a doubt the pandemic years have been tough as all hell. Riding all the waves of keeping our brilliant little team afloat, dealing with landlords and bills and the bank alongside a growing XL spreadsheet of postponements and reschedules, and walking teary couples through it all. Rinse and repeat for the huge corporate events and hospitality side of our business as well and you’ve got a recipe for some solid sleepless nights. The incredible thing about it has been the ‘we’re all in it together’ vibe where everyone’s checking in on each other constantly.
What it’s driven home more than anything – especially for a company like us who’s in the business of joyful gatherings – is that people crave being together, they’re desperate to be around the table and share food and memories and love. Some of the wild stories and beautiful emotions that’ve been pouring out as we pick ourselves up and get back into helping people put their weddings and events on are just amazing, and it’s made us go ‘hell yeah, this is the game we want to be in, beautiful gatherings of amazing people.’
What’s your advice to couples who want to create a relaxed atmosphere for their guests?
There’s so many things that go towards making a wedding feel effortless but the three S’s are our own mantra that always seems to work.
Space – Use the space you have well in a way that makes people feel intimate or expansive or constrained or full of energy depending on the time and stage of the day that you’re at. You should never have to tell people how to party, it should be obvious and natural from how you’ve used the space to bring flow and feel.
Schedule – None of your guests should feel like there’s a schedule that’s governing them, but there always needs to be a finely crafted sense of purpose. Party’s never work if people are being bossed around too much, or if they’re abandoned. The best rule of thumb is that every hour should have 15 mins of structure to set something in motion, and then 45 mins of freedom as everyone rolls with whatever you put in motion. That way you never lose momentum, and never choke the life out of it. Also, best tip: the things that you do in daylight are very different to the things you do after dark, so use both feelings well and make sure you transition to night-time brilliantly to turn the party waaaay up.
Stress less – At some stage of your wedding you’re just gonna have to go with it, for whatever reason. So go with it. Stop worrying. It might be when the weather packs in, or when your mum gets crazy drunk on the dance-floor, or when there’s a power cut, or the most beautiful speech you’ve ever heard means you go 15 mins over time, or the bus gets a flat tyre… trust us when we say THESE are the things that spice up beautiful gatherings. Everything that you’ve planned so carefully is really just a frame around the outside of the people, your people. And if you create a space where your wonderful crew can be themselves… dear lord, watch out. Run with it.
What is the most difficult venue or space you have had to set up? Funny stories?
Driving fully loaded trucks on beaches in the far north to get to a marquee site with the tide coming in, that’s been a thing. Loading tables and steel trestle legs onto quad bikes to be ferried across a river, also a thing. Being at the back of the queue for the lift at Auckland museum at 2am when there’s four other trucks in front of you that need to be loaded (we saw the sunrise that day… from the loading dock).
What are your current crushes in regards to colour palettes?
We’ve just finished a series of beautiful tiled plinths to match our tiled bar and we found an incredible blush subway tile to use for both. It was a learning curve in tiling for things that get moved around but the finished result is something else. We always love gentle splashes of colour paired with wood tones (Cypress or Rimu or Kauri or Matai) and that combo is proving to be a firm favourite with florists and stylists as well.
What’s in store for the future of Arkade?
Over the last couple of years we have had a bit of time to think about where we want to go and how we want to do it and lets just say the future of Arkade looks so exciting! We are in the process of adding so many new things to the range and we can’t wait for people to see it all unfold. You can keep up to date with it all primarily on our instagram and also the website arkade.co.nz
You can find our friends from Arkade on our Vendor Collection HERE.
We can’t wait to see your wedding dreamscapes come to life with the gorgeous base from Arkade. To celebrate with intention and create a day never to be forgotten.