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London Calling: A Conversation with Buster + Punch

London is a city of contradictions. It’s a place where modernist skyscrapers and centuries-old Victorians stand side by side, where punk music and high tea live in a state of union. Architect and industrial designer Massimo Buster Minale is cut from this same cloth — edgy yet elegant, disruptive and irreverent yet conscious of the classics. As the owner of the London-based Buster + Punch label, Minale brings his talent for juxtaposition into the interior design world, infusing each space with an aesthetic he describes as “The Queen meets Alexander McQueen.”

“There was no one else in the world doing what I wanted to do,” says Minale, who decided to turn his passion for motorcycles, metalwork and music into a full-fledged interiors brand in 2013, following stints at Foster & Partners, Richard Rogers and his own agency, Minale + Mann.

Taking cues from London’s fashion, music and subculture scenes, Buster + Punch has collaborated with street artists, bike builders, musicians and fashion designers to craft unexpected and elegant interior products for the home. One luxury collaboration – with Rolls-Royce — resulted in a bespoke version of the Buster Bulb, which was displayed at the Saatchi Gallery, London, last winter. The studio also designed and produced a furniture collection for Harrods, which included a one-of-kind whiskey “Rockstar” bar. Another collaboration with London’s legendary shoe designer, Justin Deakin, produced a much-praised pair of boots, which was showcased at London Fashion Week — a first for an interiors brand, says Minale. His last vaunted launch came in 2015, when he unveiled “the world’s first designer LED light bulb,” the BUSTER BULB, at Salone del Mobile in Milan.

Interested to learn more about his fresh take on London and design, we recently caught up with the mastermind.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Would you say you are a quintessential London designer?

Massimo Buster Minale Yes, because I don’t know anything else. I have been born, raised and worked on the same patch of London dirt all my life. For me, the spirit of London design today is the fact that it is built upon a collective of individuals and brands, all with very different styles – much like the fashion scene in the 1990s. You travel to Denmark, and all the designers are great but look the same; you travel to New York, and all the designers are great but look the same; then you travel to London, and all the design looks very different from each other. It is this uniqueness that sets London apart from the rest of the design world, and I am proud to add to the odd tapestry that is London design today.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury You have your hands in, well, everything. How do you see your design for such disparate industries intersecting?

Massimo Buster Minale The intersection of all these different product types and how each one influences the other is exactly where the magic of Buster + Punch lies. Making a nice, solid metal light switch or door handle is one thing, but making it with the same hands that have built Keith Richards’ Triumph motorbike or George Clooney’s whisky bar is another. By injecting our “ordinary” everyday home fittings with this exciting DNA, we turn them into the “extraordinary.”

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury How has your experience working in the architecture world influenced your work at Buster + Punch?

Massimo Buster Minale I worked for Foster & Partners for three years and then went on to work for Richard Rogers for another three years. During this time, I worked on some of London’s most memorable landmarks, which for a young designer was priceless. My personal experience was mixed. Much like fashion designers ply their trade on Savile Row, I did the same as an architect, working for the best in the business. My technical skills for detailing are impeccable, but I always longed for something faster and more exciting. The “slowness” of architecture finally led me into the arms of making custom motorbikes and ultimately starting Buster + Punch.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury I’m intrigued by your interest in motorcycles – where and when did your obsession start?

Massimo Buster Minale My obsession for bikes goes way back to when I was a small boy. My brother and I would travel on the back of my dad’s Harleys and Triumphs, and then when we were hooked, we started racing them around the streets of London in what would now be considered illegal drag meets. Fast-forward 15 years: by day, I was an architect, and by night, I started making my own custom motorbikes for many of London’s rock stars and fashion designers. Soon, the nighttime gig could pay the bills, and I quit my day job. Many of those customers who bought motorbikes from me also knew I was an architect and asked me to make products for their homes, and the seed was planted. Buster + Punch was born in 2013, and I suppose you could say it was the love child of my two great passions – architecture and motorbikes. Still to this day, we make home products with the same techniques that we made bike parts – solid metal and with our signature-knurling pattern.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Tell me a little about your collaboration with Rolls-Royce. What was that like, working with such an iconic British luxury brand?

Massimo Buster Minale Rolls-Royce asked us to design a product that would best represent it on its 50th anniversary. So we designed a table light that was carved out of solid marble, to reflect the lines of its 1968 front grille, and finished it with a hand-painted gold LED BUSTER BULB. The most exciting part of the collaboration was to get exclusive access to its secret vaults, where we discovered that Henry Royce started life making motorbikes and invented the bayonet light fitting – a similar birth to that of Buster + Punch!

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury There’s an inherent masculinity in your designs. Is that something you simply embrace — with no apologies? Or do you, at times, look for ways to soften it?

Massimo Buster Minale We never say sorry for the way we design. I think the fact that we make all our products out of solid metal, which in turn means they are very heavy, will always lead people to believe that they are masculine. This is further compounded by constantly being photographed next to motorbikes and rock stars. However, if you take one of our products and put it in a white room, you will see it in a very different light – it is hard in profile but elegant and soft in its detail.


Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Let’s switch gears and talk about London. How has the city’s fashion, music and subculture scenes specifically influenced your home collections?

Massimo Buster Minale I have always said that the interior industry is sleeping. While the worlds of fashion, music and subculture continue to excite and trail blaze, interior magazines are still cutting out home fittings and sticking them on white pages. To push things on and try to disrupt this sleeping giant, I take inspiration from those rock stars, fashion designers, skateboarders and street artists that I am proud to call my clients. All our products have some interesting DNA from these people. Today, we have dimmer switches based on the volume knob of a Gibson 1968 guitar, LED light bulbs fashioned from an Alexander McQueen “warm light” and door hardware with the same profile as an old Indian kick-start.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury In what ways does your local London neighborhood inspire your design?

Massimo Buster Minale I live on the Southbank (SE1), and I love the area, as you can literally walk in a 500-meter radius and get more than a glimpse of all that is great (and not so great) about London. From the Tate Modern to Borough Market, Covent Garden to SoHo, I see the shiny new bits and the dirty rough bits daily, and this helps inspire the way I design. All our products and interiors have calm or rough backdrops with amazing detailing.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury When it comes to your style at home, how would you define it?

Massimo Buster Minale I live on a lake in Stockholm and decided to turn what was once a quaint Swedish Bauhaus into a Brooklyn loft. It has a cool, calm color scheme contrasted against massive black beams and metal structures. Details and lighting are all Buster + Punch and finished in smoked bronze and artwork and furniture are either borrowed, bought or stolen from friends and designers I admire. The only word I can use to describe it is “hot-pot,” but it all seems to work and is always where I try out new designs or products.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What’s your favorite room in your house and why?

Massimo Buster Minale My favorite room is my glass motorbike garage, which opens onto our kitchen and, now that I am a dad, doubles up as my kid’s buggy room. I like it because it is where I still build things and the only room in the house that I don’t have to worry if it looks like the way I want it to – as a designer, this is a constant headache!

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What’s the one thing you must always have in your living room?

Massimo Buster Minale Chairs that face each other, and whisky. Living rooms are for conversation and fun. 

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury When it comes to your home, what’s luxury?

Massimo Buster Minale A master bedroom with a panoramic view over the most beautiful lake in the world.


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London Calling: A Conversation with Buster + Punch

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