A saw bench and a buzzer from her late father-in-law's workshop inspired Napier designer Leanne Culy's latest creations.

She's now a finalist in the Best Design Awards - Australasia's largest design awards programme.

Despite rising to the top of 1182 entries, Culy says she won't be able to attend the awards, but is ecstatic by the nomination all the same.

"I was shocked when I found out. We just entered the collection in the competition because we loved it. We weren't sure how it was going to go down. But we're really pleased," she says.


Culy has run her business, Homebase Collections, out of a design studio on Hastings St in Napier since January 2017.

The table and chairs entered into the awards were inspired by father-in-law David Culy's saw table and feature interlocking joins, side handles, and even wheels which clearly impressed the judges.

He died in 1997 and was a master craftsman who taught cabinet-making at the New Zealand Technical Correspondence Institute in Wellington in the 1950s.

"David's life was devoted to craft. He was a man who made everything himself. From his house to his television - even his own car."

During World War II, Culy was involved in the manufacture of wooden aeroplanes for the De Havilland factory in Rongotai, Wellington.

"So it comes as no surprise that the utilitarian pieces of equipment for his workshop which he made himself was his unique and distinctive aesthetic.

"We've done a range of furniture before where it was based on something he made which was a Geo Baby that we have and we've done a few other ranges of furniture as well and just thought it was really nice for our range, so we commissioned a local cabinet-maker to make it for us."

Her "workbench" has been recreated with interlocking joins at all intersections, which adds depth, strength and intrigue to the design.

The table has a large benchtop for functionality and versatility and is useful as a dining table, hall table or feature piece.

"The whole range is just very neat and compact and all in the same style as his original work, we've just tweaked it slightly."

The awards take place on September 22 in Auckland.