Grandmothers in general love to make things last. They will scrape the last bit of jam from the jar (then put the empty jar back in the fridge). They will refuse to replace their 1982 air conditioner even though it now blows hot air. And they will Mr Sheen the coffee table daily. This philosophy was passed down to Elise Heslop of Plyroom by her Italian Nonna, and has become the basis behind her furniture and homewares business.
Elise Heslop’s Italian heritage is a big part of her life. ‘We have the typical passata days in Summer, make sausage in Winter, and grow and harvest olives in Autumn,’ says Elise, who also majored in Italian language at university. A long held dream was realised when Elise and her young family decided to pack their bags and live in Italy for a year – a move that inspired the creation of Plyroom. ‘The idea was to take hardly anything with us and live more simply,’ recalls Elise. ‘Living in a small two bedroom flat over there started to challenge my quintessentially Australian idea of living space – the big back yards, a bedroom for every person, and open plan living. The idea for sustainably made, multipurpose furniture for small spaces came shortly after.’
While in Northern Italy, Elise found it difficult to find children’s furniture that suited her family’s needs and new living situation. She started to work alongside Italian designers to produce concepts for what would later become Plyroom’s first range. ‘Time overseas made me better appreciate my Nonna’s ways of looking after what you have, and reducing our reliance on disposable furniture, I wanted something that would last’ says Elise.
After returning home to Australia, Elise expanded and adapted her range for the Australian market, working with local designers and makers to bring her vision to life. Her material of choice was plywood. ‘Plywood is my favourite material, I love that it has a light visual footprint but is surprisingly strong.’ Plyroom’s products are made from responsibly forested materials that fulfill their ethos of ‘taking pleasure from simple things’. The collection now includes everything from kids’ furniture including cots, bunk beds and single beds, to storage solutions, office furniture and bedroom and dining suites. Elise is currently also developing her first range of lighting. Each piece is intended to be assembled jigsaw-puzzle-like without screws or nails, and is designed to showcase raw materials in their simplest form.
Plyroom’s new studio is opening in Melbourne this week at 19 Nicholson St, East Brunswick. Open Friday 10-5, Saturday 10-2, or by appointment.