At Jardan’s flagship showroom in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Richmond, light streams through the window onto artfully arranged contemporary furniture in colours strangely reminiscent of Australia: the blue of blue-gum trees, the pink of an outback sunset and sea-foam green. “We look to Europe for design inspiration but adapt it to suit the Australian lifestyle,” says co-owner Nick Garnham.
His family took over a decade-old but struggling furniture business in 1997 and have since transformed it into one of the country’s most exciting furniture brands. Now, he and brother Mike look after the day-to-day running of the 130-employee company.
Two years ago they opened their own shops in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane – a bold but necessary step in a changing market. It also meant altering key parts of the business, such as boosting their marketing division. “We came into it naively as we’re not super corporate,” says Nick.
Apart from its aesthetic, what sets Jardan apart is that the company designs, manufactures and sells almost all of its own wares, with a few small exceptions such as custom-designed ceramics by Porcelain Bear. Furniture is made at two factories in outer Melbourne, where the Garnhams have invested in cutting-edge technology, such as a leather-imaging machine that works out how to optimise each piece of leather.
When the influx of cheaper made-in-China furniture began to overwhelm the relatively small Australian market about 15 years ago, Jardan made the decision to move upmarket, sourcing better-quality timbers, fabrics and other materials. “We find people are willing to save up and pay more for our pieces that they’ll keep forever,” says Nick.
The strategy has paid off, with turnover steadily growing each year to about AU$25m (€16m) in 2015. Staff retention is also high, with some craftsmen having remained at the company since its inception.
Coming soon is a Sydney showroom and a beach-themed collection. For Nick, their approach is what makes the collection unique. “We imagine what we have in our beach house then throw in some playful references, such as a nod to your grandma’s hand-me-down sofa.”
Year founded: 1987
Chairs/sofa made per year: 5,000
Yards of fabric used to make one chair/sofa: Up to 20 metres
Bestselling product: Nook Sofa