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al Corboy is an internationally renowned kitchen
designer based in New Zealand, with a swag of awards
to his name and a list of happy clients that stretches to
Los Angeles. His designs are instantly recognisable,
defined by individual use of colour and lighting, with an emphasis
on clean, extended lines and peerless attention to form and function.
Not bad for a Perth boy who began his career as a train driver. So,
how did he get from the workshops at the old East Perth depot to the
houses of the rich and famous in Europe and America?
“I was an apprentice cabinetmaker with Public Works, then got
my train driver’s ticket. I married and moved to New Zealand, where
I discovered they had one train and two train drivers,” he laughs.
Squeezed out of the giant New Zealand rail industry, Mal took a
position as a cabinetmaker, only to be made redundant in the stock
market crash of the late 1980s. Jobless and a long way from home, he
made the life-changing decision to open his own cabinetry business.
He has never looked back, his compa ny establishing a reputation
for quality before Mal branched
into the world of design. “Once
you had built and sold a kitchen,
you had to design the layout. I
suppose you could say my design
career began from necessity,
then it became a passion.”
With qualifications as a certified kitchen designer in both
Australia and New Zealand, he set up his own studio in Auckland on
a start-up budget of nothing at all. Studying industry professionals,
Mal had noticed a gap between form and function. “It seemed that
many designers didn’t really care about the practical concerns of
their clients, whereas, as a cabinetmaker, I automatically knew what
could and could not be done. When I started designing, and gained
confidence, I began to think more from the perspective of form.”
The aesthetic principles of design have always been tempered
by Mal’s knowledge of construction and the practical limits of
possibility. After all, a beautiful kitchen is nothing if it doesn’t work.
Mal always consults with clients on their aspirations, and never
starts a project without personally inspecting the site.
“I was fortunate to have a number of clients who said ‘go
for it’... design should make a statement. Love it or hate it;
that’s great. It’s better than no response at all”
LEFTWith its stainless steel and American oak
tops, this kitchen took out the award for Kitchen
Design of the Year 2009 Australia.
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