Sometimes paradise can be uninspiring.
Kati and Rory Morgan had what most would consider the dream life, living near idyllic Noosa’s palm-lined beaches working together on a shared passion. But it took a switch to Brisbane to turn their made-to-order furniture brand, Mast, into what it needed to be.
“There’s part of [Noosa] that we miss, but Monday to Friday it’s a dream being in the city,” Kati says. “We were finding it unmotivating when we were busting our butts at work and everyone is hanging at the beach and on holidays. We got a bit frustrated after a while.”
The two met through friends when American-born Kati was finishing her business marketing degree on the Sunshine Coast. Noosa-bred Rory was studying architecture and working as a draftsman. On the side he started playing with furniture design, getting other makers to build his pieces.
“It turned into an obsession of mine and I slowly started teaching myself some woodworking skills,” Rory says.
As a kid he dreamed of becoming an architect but a desire to own his own business led him to start taking the furniture-building hobby more seriously.
“Friends and family were asking for bits and pieces to be made,” he says. “Around 2012 [we] started charging money for the furniture, even though it wasn't … enough to live off.”
In the years since the husband and wife team has turned Rory’s serious hobby into a serious business; Mast Furniture has become known for its clean, simple designs and quality craftsmanship.
The Morgans’ 2017 move to Brisbane coincided with the Mast workshop opening in Virginia. Rory spends his time there drafting new designs and building pieces with his staff. Kati can be found on the floor at the new showroom on West End’s Montague Road, where Mast shares the space with architects Vokes and Peters, interior designer Georgia Cannon and fine art gallery Milani Gallery.
“Our business forces us to keep growing. There are always challenges and we have goals. Opening the showroom was huge for us,” Kati says. “We’re both really decisive people and we always have been. So we pretty much pull the trigger and just go for things.”
With the focus squarely on the business, the couple decided to move into a “cookie-cutter new apartment” in Brisbane rather than shack up in a Queenslander that they’d feel compelled to style. Books about architecture can be found everywhere, along with artwork from friends and family and a bunch of Mast prototypes.
“We do have a lot of our furniture,” Rory says. “It was a bit of a prototype graveyard for a while, of things that maybe didn’t quite work or didn’t make it into the range.”
For now the plan is to keep growing Mast’s furniture range, expand its presence nationally and raise their first child, which is due in March.
“We’re excited,” Kati says about the baby. “We both know it will be a lot of hard work.”