People

Behind the refit of George & Willy’s playful Mount Maunganui workspace

George Wilkins and Will McCallum on their anything-but-average office, complete with huts you can make at home. 

From humble beginnings in their parents’ sheds, George and Willy the duo has grown into George & Willy the team, and with a renovated office and an edited-down range, their business has never felt better. We asked them all about it.

When did you decide to pare down your offerings? George: We used to just make anything we wanted to without much thought to the commercial aspect of the products. It was a good way to be, but we ended up with quite a few items that didn’t really sell that well, so it’s been a natural process of trying new products and only keeping the ones that are extraordinary. Will: Our focus now is on making display products for hospitality spaces, businesses and homes. In saying that, we have kept a few of our old favourites, including the firestarter and hanging drying rack. The majority of our products are sent overseas, so shipping costs are a key consideration. 

 


Your Studio Roller paper roller really kicked it off for you guys internationally — what’s it like being a world-wide supplier of everyday tools?
W: It’s fun! It means that we get to work with a wide range of customers. We’ve sent our products to more than 80 countries.

Who are your customers these days? W: They’re often businesses wanting to elevate their spaces through little details, from a café looking for a menu display, to a tech company seeking creative signage. We’ve had some pretty cool orders lately. Jamie Oliver bought a Studio Roller for his child’s room, and some big companies such as Airbnb, New York Times, Microsoft, Google and Nike have purchased various products for their spaces. 

Yet you’re still based at the Mount. W: We love it. It takes everyone about five minutes to get to work and everything’s so easy. George and I both grew up here, so we have strong ties to the region.

You recently gave your workshop an overhaul — what instigated the renovation? W: Our space is a 160m2 industrial unit that used to be a boat mechanic’s workshop. We’ve been working in it for about four years and it was turning into a rabbit warren with things accumulating in every corner. Originally, we built a mezzanine office on pallet racking and we’d work up there and use the downstairs area for our workshop, but recently we decided to start fresh. We had a garage sale to clear everything out, dismantled the mezzanine, painted the walls and floor white, and built work huts for each of us. It’s worked wonders.

ABOVE A swing behind the huts provides a place to think, let off steam and shift creative blocks. It was one of the first products the guys ever made but is now out of production, so they love that they’ve come full circle and used it in their refit.

What guided the aesthetic? G: We’ve spent the past few years making products that make other spaces fun, so it was an extension of that. We wanted it to be quite a basic shell, with interesting features throughout it.
W: It needed to serve several purposes, to be an office, a photo studio, a dust- free workshop, and somewhere we could host events, including the weekly yoga classes we’ve started. We thought white would be the best colour and it’s such a nice contrast to our previous space.

How did the huts come about? G: They were a practical solution to a heating problem. Our studio has a tin roof and gets pretty cold in winter, and now we can heat each hut individually. They give us each a cosy little desk space, providing a happy medium between being in one room together and having our own space. We can focus and avoid getting distracted, while also being
able to hang out. 

ABOVE Some of the George & Willy crew. They’ve recently made an e-book that outlines DIY projects you can try at home, including a how-to for making these huts.

It looks like you get a good chance to road-test your range here… W: Our workshop walls are always covered with prototypes and ideas. If we’re thinking about a new product, we can build it in the workshop and whack it up on the wall while we consider it in more depth. We use our existing products to display our goals and shopping lists. 

ABOVE The custom-made décor is designed to be easily moved around, including Frida’s doghouse. The Park Display and Atelier Letters are George & Willy products.

What’s a regular day like at G&W HQ? W: There’s lots of variety, which keeps things exciting. Usually there’s a bit of design and a few products to be made, some customer service, some product design and some photos/video to be taken. We’re currently focusing on improving our packaging to make opening it more fun for our customers. It’s all going to be plastic free. 

How do you like to start the day before cracking on with work? W: Life at the Mount is well suited to making the most of the early mornings. Some of us run up the Mount each morning — rain, hail or shine — some of us go surfing, and sometimes we even play golf.  You can tee off at 7am and be at work by 8.30. We’re pretty lucky in that regard.
G: We’ve recently bought a coffee machine, so generally everyone arrives at work and makes a coffee before getting into it. We’ve also started hosting 6am yoga classes in the studio with our yoga instructor friend Sarah Gunson, which is always a good start to the day. It’s a pretty fit and active workplace. I have a labrador puppy called Frida who comes to work every day and takes
up a bit of time — she’s pretty fun to play with!
georgeandwilly.com

Interview Alice Lines
Photography Fin Woods