Paul Kafka papers
A collection of architectural plans, photographs and ephemera relating to Austrian-born furniture designer Paul Ernest Kafka (1907-1972). The collection comprises two main elements: plans and photographs of a house in Eton Road, Lindfield designed in 1948 for Paul Kafka by émigré architect Hugo Stossel; and 143 photographs of motel interiors c 1960s.
Paul Kafka was born in Vienna, Austria, in July 1907, the son of a Viennese furniture manufacturer. He worked in his father's factory from a young age and later became apprenticed to another furniture manufacturer in Vienna. He also studied furniture design and interior decoration at the Academy of Arts in Vienna. After completing his apprenticeship he took up a position as furniture and interior designer with a retail furniture store in Vienna before emigrating with his wife to Australia in 1939. He worked at Ralph Symonds Ltd for a short time prior to opening a small furniture factory in Elizabeth Street, near Central Railway station where he employed just a few craftsmen. After a couple of years he moved to larger premises in Botany Road, Waterloo, where he produced custom-built furniture, employing between 20-30 tradesmen, He became a naturalised Australian in 1945. In the last ten years before his death in May 1972 he was producing specialised furniture and assisting in interior decoration of hotels and motels.
Kafka’s clientele included both private home owners and corporations and he produced furniture, particularly built-in cabinet work, for a number of Sydney’s European-born architects who were themselves amongst the small group of pioneering modernists practising in Australia in the post-war years. Harry Seidler was a notable early client, and Hugh Buhrich and Henry Epstein were others. Hungarian-born modernist architect Hugo Stossel designed Kafka’s own house in the Sydney suburb of Lindfield.
Kafka’s furniture survives in a number of public and private collections as tangible evidence of the contribution made by Sydney’s post-war European emigrants to Australia’s emergence as a vibrant, multicultural society.
Furniture design; Interior design; Modernism; Multiculturalism
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia