The humble beginnings of Wilkins and Kent launched in 1993 when friends Jeremy Wilkins and Stephen Kent were driven to provide handmade functional and aesthetically appealing furniture to locals in Fitzroy, selling out of the off Brunswick St workshop. Whilst Stephen has since moved on to other endeavours, Jeremy is still the proud owner of the business and continues to make furniture in the workshop alongside Clare, who has now finished an apprenticeship program whilst at Wilkins and Kent and continues to make furniture full time. Along with the Furniture Manager, Jeremy still deals directly with customers, always ensuring that the pieces will work in clients’ homes and perform the function clients require.
The furniture Jeremy and Clare make still has the distinct Wilkins and Kent look; clean, simple lines, the use of contrasting timbers, simple but effective decoration, and an emphasis on functional design. "We draw a lot of inspiration from early settler furniture where function was the main requirement, but it was important to individualise pieces to remind one of home or more comfortable surrounds" says Jeremy. Inspiration hasn’t been limited to a single style or period but has evolved over a period of time. This ensures that the furniture works both functionally and aesthetically. Design ideas and furniture are kept fresh through a balance of custom design with new pieces for the shop. Signature pieces such as the CD cabinets, hifi furniture, bookcases and beds are still made and sold in good numbers along with an increase in larger built-in designs.
The shop grew to include the retail frontage at 230 Brunswick Street and some homeware lines were introduced to complement the furniture. The emphasis for product selection has been on local designs, and the stories behind them. In about 2005 Wilkins and Kent were featured in the Slattery publication “Handmade in Melbourne”. Many of the artisans represented in the book were suggested and stocked by Wilkins and Kent. Wilkins and Kent have tried to maintain this ethos and, where possible, ensured that products not produced locally at least have an interesting and genuine back-story. Over the years they have been supportive to many local makers stocking their wares. In fact many of their staff sell their wares in the shops.
A city store at 373 Lt Bourke St was opened in 2008 near Hardware Lane, providing a shop with old-world Melbourne charm. This contrast with creative and gritty Fitzroy is part of the Wilkins and Kent culture of which we are proudly established. Wilkins and Kent has now blossomed into two interesting shops that combine furniture and homewares, employing a small loyal retail team.
In 2017, Jeremy undertook a laborious renovation on the Brunswick Street premises to ensure that furniture and products could be given the space deserved to highlight their form, function, and aesthetics. This provides direct access to the workshop from the shop through a streamlined walkway, as well as providing a dedicated showroom for the display of furniture. This also allows more space to have a gallery for wonderful prints and photographs, as well as a curated selection of homewares, outdoor furniture, lighting design, rugs and garden ware. Additional work has gone into the city shop to provide an exceptional space to shop.