Q&A. In conversation with Mark Tuckey and Richard Munao

Corporate Culture, the holding group behind Cult Design and a number of leading design and furniture businesses in the Asia-Pacific region, has acquired Mark Tuckey; a revered brand known for its timeless and beautifully crafted solid timber furniture.

To share the story behind this milestone acquisition, we sat down with Mark Tuckey and Richard Munao to discover how the deal to took shape, what the future holds and the importance of preserving and promoting Australian manufacturing, design, and craftsmanship.

Mark Tuckey, Founder of MARK TUCKEY 

Richard Munao, Founder and CEO of Corporate Culture 

On the origins and essence of Mark Tuckey. 

Hi Mark, let's start from the beginning. How did you get into furniture design and what led you to start the Mark Tuckey brand?

MARK: I was involved in some creative endeavours when I was younger, Organic/natural dyes, Ceramic sculpture and mens clothing design. In my late twenties after a freewheeling life travelling the world surfing and skiing and living in Europe. I realised I better get a career happening. It was a bit of a melt down moment. Having grown up on the northern beaches in Sydney it was in my blood that I had to do something that was environmentally friendly. In the meltdown I didn’t want to do something just for money, I thought what would I do if I didn’t need money. I realised I wanted to work with my hands, my head and my heart. I knew a guy socially who was making furniture out of recycled timber and that fitted. I managed to talk my way into a job with him and suddenly I was PA to the MD. I learnt the ropes on the job.

How has the brand evolved over the last 35 years?

MARK: It started with me buying a truck and armed with $200 and lots of knowledge I started with one table I bought with the $200, renovated it and sold 3 days later for $800. I went to the auctions that night and bought 3 more and away I went. I stalked the council tips outs around expensive Melbourne suburbs in my truck for things to renovate and sell. Very successfully. I went to demolition jobs and bought timber for slabs of beer and cash. I started making things in garage I borrowed.

It grew organically and peaked at 4 shops and 55 staff. It's now around 20 staff and 2 outlets. In between is a long story that involves a lot of hard work, determination, lots of organisation and reprioritising regularly. The brand was originally Ancient Modes and re branded to MARK TUCKEY in 2006 by Rachel Castle. Its evolved from pretty rustic product into a clean, modern look. That brand always was about quality, furniture that will last for generations.

How would you describe the Mark Tuckey design aesthetic? Do you design all the pieces yourself?

MARK: The aesthetic is pared back, timeless design that celebrates the beauty of solid timber. Iconic designs that is beyond fashion, like an Eames chair). The design has been a combination of me and some things are a collaboration with others. I have never brought in contract designers.

What do you think defines Australian design? What does the future of furniture manufacturing look like in Australia?

MARK: The design coming out of Australia is world class; Its cheerful, honest, robust, relaxed, stylish, contemporary, quality, functional, timeless craftsmanship. Advances in technology have lead to equipment for manufacture being more sophisticated and cheaper to buy so more can happen here.

On Corporate Culture acquiring Mark Tuckey. 

When did you first meet each other? How has your relationship evolved over the years?

MARK: I have known Richard for about 10 years (at a guess) I think we met at a Designex. I have stocked some of his products in my shops over the years. We always had a very relaxed and interesting rappot, mainly about the furniture business. He was always very complimentary to me about my brand. What started out as a casual chat early this year has turned into him taking over my business.

Mark, tell us about the decision to sell your business, what factors led you to make this decision? 

MARK: I have had the business for a long time – almost 35 years. I’m not getting any younger and decided to see if I could find someone appropriate to pass the baton to so I could enjoy some time in my life free of business responsibilities.

How did the acquisition by Cult take shape, are there any stories you can share about the process? What has the process involved?

MARK:  Richard called me randomly in the week when I had decided, finally, to really do something about the business and my involvement. I had not spoken with him for a while, it was an amazing coincidence. He wanted to buy a table from me for a friend, we got chatting and one thing led to another! Like most deals the top line concept was quickly formed and the rest was filling in blanks to create an agreement.

RICHARD: I called Mark in March 2023 to help a close friend purchase a table. When I was speaking to Mark he mentioned he was planning to either sell our shut his business down by the end of July 2023. After getting off the phone I thought about the fact that potentially another manufacturer would close their doors after more than 30 years of trading. At that point I thought it would be good to see if we could help the business with our expertise. I have seen the brand over the past and I know they are well known for making beautiful solid timber products and have a great following.

After looking at the numbers and meeting the team I felt the business had a great team of makers that are passionate about the products they make and the brand. After spending months reviewing their strength and opportunities I felt we could easily add value and help strengthen what Mark has created and could see that we could use our marketing and sales knowledge to grow the business. I am passionate about Australian design and as a trained cabinetmaker I want to see manufacturing stay in Australia.

So, what's next both for Mark Tuckey the brand, and Mark Tuckey the person?

RICHARD: The plan is to keep the Mark Tuckey brand running as it has been. It has a great following and I have spoken to many clients who love what the brand stands for and the products. The team is passionate about making beautiful long-lasting product, so we plan to grow the awareness of the brand in the commercial and hospitality sectors as well as broaden its reach in the residential sector. We also plan to expand the offering so that we offer more chairs and lighting.

MARK: I will be involved in the business where it's helpful, especially during handover and the ensuing months. Time will tell what the extent is but there will be some involvement, I dont want it to disappear out of my life, It's my baby and I love it.

As for what's next, navel gazing and traveling around the world to visit old friends. I told my children I would have a gap year, which they find highly amusing. I will keep a MARK TUCKEY retail presence in Byron. I buy and sell recycled timber. I have 14 acres of land and gardens near Byron Bay where I live that has endless opportunities for me to spend time. I really enjoy gardening/landscaping. I might get my hands onto it again and make some one- off pieces of furniture for fun. I want to have a Da Da moment, the only good plan is no plan. I have a weird desire to do something in the food industry. That may never happen.

Why do you think it's important to invest in Australian manufacturing and design?

RICHARD: For many years we have been investing in Australian design and working with local artisans to be able to offer Australian Design and made as I am passionate about keeping things local. The NAU brand that we launched back in 2017 is an example of this. I also believe that consumers are becoming more conscious of buying local, so the acquisition of the Mark Tuckey brand made sense for us to put our money where our mouth is and really show our commitment to Australian design. We also have a strong commitment to sustainability and buying local ticks all the boxes.

MARK: I didn’t have much choice as I only had my enthusiasm and energy to invest, I had no money but I guess you could write a thesis to answer that one! It is very rewarding to work along side lots of people who get a kick out of creating furniture from solid timber rather than cheap substitutes. I have always manufactured in my workshop in Melbourne, by hand with appropriate machinery.

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