Mal Corboy may be an internationally acclaimed award winning kitchen designer, yet he is firmly anchored in the realities of what people want, when they need it and why the kitchen is now the “soul” of a home.
Pragmatic to the core, the bespectacled, self-taught designer knows the science of balancing both the spatial and the economic parametres of a brief while freely dreaming up custom designs with the deft touch of an artist.
While his work is global with completed projects in Hollywood and even Trinidad, Mal is a local based in Kohimarama. Not bad for a school leaver at 15 who followed a path in the 80’s into cabinet making when he recalls “kitchens were very rudimentary with zero aesthetic most often situated in the back of the house”. Talking with Mal now and you quickly appreciate his thirty plus years of design knowledge and ‘eye’ that is highly attuned to colour, texture, forms and function — wrapped up by his devilish sense of humour.
Seeds of inspiration he says are “drawn from every aspect of life around him” while frequently travelling the world seeking out the latest in commercial design from interiors to watches. “You look at the colours of nature too, like how the sunrise colours work across the water.”
Bold splashes of colour and bolts of light are hallmarks of his creative signature. “I’m not afraid of colour and been known to convince clients “hey we’re going to do a pink kitchen”. Ten years down the track that pink kitchen is on trend – we still get asked for images of it for magazines.”
The secret to standing the test of time is simple even when using a bright, punchy pink, “good design is timeless so it’s designed right, it’s always going to look good”.
When asked how he brings the magic out in a kitchen design, Mal laughs before introspectively touching on the Fibonacci principles of design (the Golden Ratio) and the power of intuition. “To be quite honest, I can’t answer that…to be a designer is not a 9 to 5 job. Some of my best work has been created on a Sunday morning because you just get into the zone and it flows into place.”
A stalwart supporter of New Zealand manufacturers, Mal’s view on the merits of custom design versus choosing from a catalogue is compelling. “There’s really nothing that you cannot get locally that imported kitchens offer — and most of the time you get more value for money,” he says.
It’s about the personal touch working alongside a designer in person, the speed of production compared to the frequent lag of European imports, the scope to make changes right up to the last minute and the cost differential due to dealing straight with the manufacturer.
“New Zealand has some of the best manufacturing processes in the world if they have a designer that’s giving them the right specifications and they know what to do – it has to be a combination of both” says Mal. “It’s about picking up a paint fan-deck and saying “right what colour, materials and products do you want?” You’ve got an odd shape on the plan so we’re going to have to do a drawer unit that’s 792mm long to make it fit. We will not fill in a 100mm packer down the end because our modules only come in 600mm module size.”
So forget about the cookie cutter catalogue, a ‘Mal Corboy’ makes total sense.
Words: Sarah Sparks