Massimo Buster Minale started out as an architect (he worked for Foster & Partners and others), but he had a serious eye for detail—beyond cool detail.
He started building custom motor bikes with two friends in an East London Garage in his free time when word got out about his skills and some big-name clients started asking him to build beautiful pieces for their homes, too. “That’s how the business started. It started with me making a whiskey bar for Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones,” he says.
As an architect Massimo found himself getting frustrated with the slowness of projects and the changes that happen when a building takes years to complete and involves many people.
His love of making things and his affection for detail got him thinking, what else could he make? What about something that hadn’t been done before?
Buster + Punch was born in 2013—the lovechild, Massimo says, of his architecture education and passion for custom motorbikes. Today the company makes everything from motorbikes to cabinet knobs to lighting and even jewelry.
Massimo saw a gap in the market—especially for small, beautiful things made of solid metal. “We take ordinary details like light switches and door handles and inject a lifestyle feeling,” he says. “I think that’s the magic of Buster + Punch. We bring boring things to life yet we’re offering very ordinary, essential things.”
Details like a cross knurling pattern coupled with heavy metal and bold finishes keep the brand’s offerings cohesive. “We operate a bit like a fashion house in the fact that our first stable of products all had this cross knurl pattern. People see that cross knurl now and think of Buster + Punch,” Massimo says. “We view it a bit like how Louis Vuitton would use the LV pattern.”
Massimo points to the new Linear line of pulls and knobs for cabinets and closets as an example of how the knurling pattern remains while the look evolves. “Our first looks were very industrial, very motorbike workshop in scale, and masculine, whereas our new wave of products is more elegant in scale and inspired by fashion. I wanted something that looked just as good on your bedside table as it would on your favorite luxury handbag.”
The Burnt Steel finish in the Linear line is also new and has been in the making for more than two years. Massimo calls it a rainbow of blues, purples, and yellows. “We don’t apply it to the surface of the metal; we actually heat the metal so it’s part of its chemical makeup. No two products are the same.”
His aha moment for the new finish came to him one day after riding his Indian motorbike. He was struck by how the titanium exhaust pipes changed color, and he was determined to figure it out. “We innovated a way we could oxidize that into our products,” he says. “We take stainless steel and essentially heat it with a flamethrower. That’s a really exciting finish for us because it’s almost alchemy.”
“We take ordinary details and inject a lifestyle feeling.”
But it isn’t enough to be a great finish. It needs to speak to people on every level.
“We live in an age where creativity and innovation cannot exist without a strong visual narrative. Digital is king, social media is king, and because there is so much competition now within the interior industry for product companies to stand out, you need to make sure products are presented well and look great on social media, too.”
“Burnt Steel is this amazing finish and our creative celebrates this—and that translates to amazing social media because it really is so unusual. Those are the realizations people need to think about. It’s not just good enough to make a beautiful product. It needs to work in real life and in social media.”
Besides aha moments and sitting down to sketch, Massimo loves building the brand and discovering what it means to people all over the world, as Buster + Punch went from a little known company to having a presence in 90 countries.
“We are guys from a motorbike garage. We love fashion and music, and hopefully the brand still reflects that in a very authentic way. That’s one great thing small companies have—that authenticity, which large companies just can’t manufacture.”
4 Essential Looks from Buster + Punch
This easy-to-install range elevates spaces with metal light switches, trim plates, and more. “For a long time everyone in North America has had the worst [white plastic] light switches in the world, which we could never understand.”
Buster + Punch is known for taking forgotten details and transforming them, like door handles and door stops. “We take very ordinary, boring home fittings and reinvent how you feel about them,” Massimo says. “These are things you touch all of the time, so in many ways they’re the most important things. These communicate quality—who you are and the quality of your project.”
Linear includes new pull bars and knobs as well as the L-Bar and Precious Bar—lockable hardware that’s perfect for Airbnbs or liquor cabinets. The Precious Bar is reminiscent of handbags with elegant chains. “It’s a really unusual piece you wouldn’t see a normal hardware company produce,” Massimo says. The line also features two new finishes—Burnt Steel and Gun Metal.
Motorbike exhaust baffles inspired this new range. Massimo says the spotlight, surface ceiling downlight, track light, and pendant light fill a void in the market between the high-end technical spotlights architects specify and cheap spotlights at big box stores. “It has this beautiful solid metal baffle and a special lighting diffuser. There’s no glare, and it has this lovely metallic glow.”
This article originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Sixtysix with the headline “Almost Alchemy.” Subscribe today.
Produced by Studio Sixtysix
Words by Laura Rote
Photos courtesy of Buster + Punch
Studio Sixtysix is the in-house creative agency to Sixtysix magazine. Studio Sixtysix stories are conceived, produced, and edited by Studio Sixtysix.