Unique Australian design. Three words that can be packed with meaning, or simply used as a marketing slogan. In the case of Jardan, it’s very much the former. Beginning life as an upholstery business in 1987, the company has grown to become one of Australia’s most innovative furniture producers. It’s also one of a small handful that continue to make their products locally, combining modern manufacturing techniques with handcrafting methods that celebrate the nature of local timber.
“We try and push boundaries with materials as well as design,” says Jardan’s head designer, Tom Shaw. “We have a Melbourne-based design team that can really connect with local culture and understand what our customers want. A lot of design comes from overseas, so what we’re offering is quite unique because they don’t have the same lifestyle we do.”
As Shaw explains, the philosophy extends to materials. “We like to use Australian timber because it gives the furniture a story and really ingrains Australia’s history into the product.”
We’re chatting in Jardan’s Melbourne showroom with Shaw and co-owner Nick Garnham, who had been working as a furniture maker at Jardan for several years before taking over the company in 1997 with his brother and father. At that time, Jardan hadn’t yet created a real identity.
In the past 18 years, Jardan has become a completely different company to that of its first decade. Some changes are obvious – the aesthetic and quality of the end product, the attention to detail and the growth in staff from eight to around 100 – and some are less so. An avid surfer who spends as many weekends as he can out of the city and in the ocean, it was important to Garnham that his business didn’t just pay lip service to conservation and sustainability. With its focus on local manufacturing and materials, sourcing ethically and minimising waste, in 2014 Jardan was awarded Australia’s highest environmental rating and is now an accredited carbon-neutral organisation.
“It’s always been important for us to have a low environmental impact,” Garnham says. “It’s a big feature we’ve been building on for the past 10 years. We have an ethical responsibility to look after the planet.”
Beyond this responsibility, Garnham is enthusiastic about supporting Australia’s next generation of designers. As part of the Mercedes-Benz Design Award by Broadsheet, Jardan will give an emerging Australian designer the opportunity to manufacture their own piece of furniture, to be launched and sold within the Jardan range.
“We’re excited to be partnered with a company like Mercedes-Benz, which is at the forefront of design,” Garnham says. “We’re really looking forward to unearthing new Aussie talent and engaging with the young design community.”
As pioneers in the design field, both Garnham and Shaw will be looking for a design that will be comfortable in any Australian home. They also emphasise the importance of original, creative concepts that will excite them and potential customers.
“We want to see something that excites us, something that’s original, engages with new concepts and that even challenges us by using unusual materials or design techniques,” Shaw says. “We always ask that of our own designers. That really drives us in terms of technology and pushes our design to new levels. Each piece should feel as though it’s been designed with love and that it could bring integrity to someone’s life and home.”
Jardan is partnering with the Mercedes-Benz Design Awards by Broadsheet to give one Australian the chance to bring a product to life with the company. Entries are now closed and the winner has been announced.