It is my firm belief that 98% of people hate their couch. I hate mine. I only know 2 people who love their couches. In my mind, this means that 98% of people are permanently in the market for a new one. But, most people seem to have no idea where to start. It is, after all, a very overwhelming (and usually expensive) decision.... the kind of decision that sits on the backburner for at least 5 years in most cases!
Well, I'm here to tell you that if you're in the market for a beautifully designed couch (or sideboard, or coffee table, or dining setting, for that matter), there is one local company that designs and makes everything right here in Melbourne. Their pieces are truly beautiful and extremely well made. They're GECA green accredited and employ 80 talented local craftspeople. And Nick Garnham, who runs the place, is just a really nice guy. So if, like me, you hate your couch, I think a trip to Jardan might be in order.
Jardan designs some of the most beautiful Australian-made furniture money can buy. And truly, it is not even that expensive. I have long been a fan of Jardan's work, but for some reason I always assumed they were some multi-national conglomerate. Not so! Jardan is a family owned business, born and bred in Melbourne... and, incredibly, ALL their production still takes places in their Melbourne factory - right behind their stunning showroom in Mt Waverley. AMAZING, no?! Nothing gets me quite as hyped as a successful local environmentally responsible design company run by REALLY NICE PEOPLE. Jardan ticks all those boxes and more.
I was so thrilled to visit Jardan HQ recently and get a personal behind-the-scenes tour from Nick! I must say it was during this visit that they really won me over! :) Because whilst many would have you believe that local manufacture can't possibly compete with overseas production, Jardan proves that if you prioritise beautiful design and ethical production standards, it is possible to run (and grow!) a successful and respected design and manufacture business right here in Melbourne.
ALSO It was so uplifting to meet the entire team working behind the scenes - and to learn that everyone at Jardan, from the designers to the sales team to the cutters, machinists, upholsterers and framers... all of them are just really well looked after and super happy to be there! The team are a incredible multicultural mix of people from all walks of life... and let me tell you - they're not shy in front of the camera! In most workplaces I am used to people disappearing as soon as I take my camera out - at Jardan the guys in the factory couldn't get enough of me! Everyone wanted to chat and have their photo taken... I am having guilt pangs that I wasn't able to photograph them all! Sorry guys!
I must say an enormous thankyou to Nick and all the team who were so accommodating (and entertaining!) during my visit! I hope this little interview and behind-the-scenes might inspire you to bypass Ikea next time you need a new piece of furniture.... you won't regret it!
ps) please note that Jardan does not sell direct to the public - but anyone is welcome to make an appointment and check out their stunning range at the Jardan showroom in Mt Waverley. Purchases can then be made through a retailer or interior designer / architect. Jardan furniture retails through Thomas Gannan, Hermon & Hermon, and other retailers listed here. Check out the full range on the Jardan website!
READ ON for my interview with down-to-earth Jardan company director / designer Nick, who likes to talk about surfing even more than he likes to talk about furniture :)
Tell us a little about your background – What path originally led you to furniture design and manufacture, and to building the Jardan brand?
My family took over Jardan in 1997 which at that time had gone into bankruptcy. We had no background in furniture, but thought we would have a try at it anyway. I had studied business but always had a hankering for architecture, so when our original designer left 5 years later I started having a go at design.
How has Jardan grown since the early days?
We started out in with only a little factory and 8 staff, and we now employ 80 staff with an upholstery and a timber factory and showrooms in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
More and more Australian furniture brands are moving offshore for their production – why has it been your priority to keep Jardan products made in Melbourne, and is it a constant challenge to compete with overseas manufacturing?
We like to keep it local as we have a great team of designers and craftsmen and are proud to be able to provide a livelihood for our employees and hopefully make some good Aussie furniture!
Also making in Melbourne allows us to draw on the expertise of a network of interesting little factories to source componentry; we can customise our product easily, offer quick turnaround and control our quality. As everything we do is very personalised and or customised, it would be very tricky to outsource the manufacturing offshore.
It’s also fun to make stuff!
Jardan is committed to ecologically responsible design and manufacture. Why has green accreditation been a priority for you, and can you give us some examples of the measures taken at Jardan to ensure your furniture is as sustainable as it can be?
We have a full environmental policy which covers the componentry, manufacturing techniques, recycling and waste minimisation. There is also an ethical aspect of providing a good working environment for our employees.
The green accreditations we have, including GECA, have helped us to formalise all our environmental initiatives.
Measures taken include the change to water based stains and glues; fabric, foam, leather, paper, plastic and steel waste from production and administration is collected for re-use, re-purposing or recycling. We use CFC free foams. Our timbers are sourced from sustainable forests and carry further AFS or FSC accreditations.
How is your business structured and how many people do you employ?
We have a pretty flat structure where myself and two brothers look after the management and running of the company. We employ around 80 staff… 60 in the factory, 4 people in design and development and 16 in sales marketing and admin.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
Just trying to keep the whole show rolling along - keeping in touch with sales, marketing, design and production teams… dealing with problems, liaising with clients and suppliers and perhaps thinking of some new good designs and ideas to grow the business.
What are you most proud of professionally?
The ability to provide employment for our staff and sustain a manufacturing business in Melbourne and hopefully to design and make some fresh original furniture.
Where do you turn for creative inspiration for furniture and interiors – books, international magazines, the internet, your environment, travel, nature, family or friends… etc?
All of the above and just keeping an eye out everywhere you go… especially in junk shops or old beach houses and imagining what furniture I would like to live with.
Which other designers, architects or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
All people who make imaginative designs or create interesting music, art, graphics, photography…
What would be your dream project?
Simply having someone enjoy living with the furniture we create.
What are you looking forward to?
Going to Mentawai Islands in Sumatra on a boat with a few mates and surfing my brains out…
Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?
Not really into the city... so anywhere on the coast where there are waves.
Your favourite bookstore in Melbourne for reference books and inspiration?
The Avenue Bookstore, Albert Park.
Where / what was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?
Fathers day brekky in bed.
Melbourne’s best kept secret?