Category review - a closer look at furniture

Chairs, table and lounges are a necessity in every home, however, their look, design and even purpose have changed over the years. We look at the current trends in this evolving market.

Over the next five years or so consumers are expected to increasingly focus on Australian-made furniture according to a March 2016 IBISWorld furniture retailing report. Many consumers favour Australian made goods due to their innovative designs and high quality workmanship.

According to the Australian Furniture Association there are over 200,000 Australians employed by the local furniture industry, from timber workers, skilled artisans and manufacturers to distributors, retail assistants, designers and craftsmen.

“This means there are thousands of individuals that benefit when you choose to buy Australian made furniture and therefore choosing Australian is a great way to support the industry and help stimulate the Australian economy,” it says.

Joe Chester, founder of Melbourne Table Co, has always been a supporter of local design and production as he talks about a ‘new vision for Australian manufacturing’.

“I want to support likeminded businesses employ people here in Victoria, not damning them because they can’t compete with importers,” he explains. “We intend to use all of the resources around us and the Melbourne design and manufacturing community is a very strong one.

“On the manufacturing side it can be a little misguided at times and we hope to unite forces and bring new ideas and processes to the (literal) table.”

The majority of industry products are sourced from overseas firms in low-cost countries such as China. The strength of the Australian dollar, particularly at the beginning of the past five-year period, has led to an influx of imported furniture as these goods became relatively cheaper, according to the report.

Chester says he is not interested in moving manufacturing jobs to lower wage countries. “We want to use local raw materials as much as possible and keep our manufacturing as close to the customer as possible. I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t be able to see where your furniture is made in the same way you might take your kids to visit the farm where produce is grown.

“Our aim is to have two manufacturing hubs in Australia over the next five to 10 years and expand out beyond that, with a strong investment in people and technology globally.”

Chester has been running TreeHorn Design selling smaller homewares and timber products for half a decade and customer demand made him focus more on larger furniture pieces.

“We are a custom made workshop at this stage. The client comes to us with a vision and we make it happen. The design process is fluid in our studio and we want to ensure the customer has a design tailored to them.

“I think Australia has a real talent for producing outstanding work and the maker movement of the past five years is really building in the furniture industry. Since the global recession a lot of machinery has become affordable. I’m enjoying watching people use this in homegrown manufacturing.”

To read the rest of the report in our free digital magazine, click here.