Design Institute of Australia’s 5x5 ACT Speaker Series - Rolf Barfoed

Friday 19 May 2017
Nic Crowther's picture
Co Editor
The Shaker

From his tiny 84-square metre workshop in Fyshwick, Rolf Barfoed makes masterful pieces, including one of the largest solid timber boardroom tables in the country.

Whether for business, commercial or residential, Rolf is guided by how ergonomics and the personality of a business influences the bespoke furniture he makes. ‘I make practical, comfortable pieces that have a long lifespan and get the most out of the materials I use,’ says Rolf, considered to be one of Australia’s most exciting, up-and-coming furniture designers and craftsmen.



Rolf will share his design inspiration at the upcoming 5x5 ACT Speaker Series, hosted by the Design Institute of Australia on 24 May. Five speakers from five disciplines will each have five minutes to share insights on their work.

‘It’s designed to be a stimulating evening exploring experiences, projects, successes and failures,’ says Lisa Biddiscombe, President of the DIA’s ACT Branch. ‘And it’s about inspiring the public and others to value design, promote Australian design and connect designers with others.’

Rolf was drawn to timber and craftsmanship from a young age. ‘I had a workbench and tools and on weekends would hammer away, making toy boats and wooden cars. My parents empowered me.’ 



Educated and trained in Canberra, Rolf won gold in the 2008 WorldSkills Australia National Championship placing him first among the nation’s young cabinetmakers. He studied in the UK under furniture craftsman Richard Williams and then with Churchill Fellow Evan Dunstone here.

For Rolf—as with the other speakers presenting at 5x5—design is about finding solutions to challenges. ‘Complex problems are our forte,’ says Rolf. ‘We can engineer any design from a small side table to a complete suite of furniture, or a full production run.’



But what about that 16-chair boardroom table?

Measuring 4.8 x 2 metres with a top weighing about 330 kilograms, Rolf designed the table with plenty of support for the top and plenty of leg room. The triangulated leg structure is an original design and suited the formed concrete building beautifully. Delivery, access to the building and assembly were important considerations. ‘It had to be created in parts so it could be carried and get through a standard office door,’ says Rolf.



Rolf also works with industrial designers who have a different take on design. ‘They depend on craftspeople to build their designs,’ he says. ‘I have to think of machinery, hand tools and my experience when bringing their concepts to life. These projects have opened my mind to new processes and tackling problems I would never have created for myself.’

Other 5x5 speakers

Dr Sabine Pagan—Contemporary jeweller and academic

Philip Quartly—Exhibition Designer, Designcraft

Jeremy Leisto—Glass Artist, Workshop Level

Timothy Fulton—Graphic Designer, Swell Design



Date and time    
Wednesday 24 May, 6.00pm

12 Pirie Street Fyshwick

Non-members $25.00; Members $20.00; Students $15.00

Refreshments and beverages provided.