In the carefully curated sphere of Instagram, it’s sometimes difficult to see past the veneer of glossy images and recognise true style and talent. If you scroll through the Instagram account of The Assembly Co, a crisp aesthetic is evident, but behind it is the genuine voice of a grounded couple.
Johan and Nia Neve launched their online shop, The Assembly Co, in September 2014. The online store brings together a selection of homewares from makers around the world, as well as furniture made by Johan, a trained graphic designer, turned plumber, turned furniture maker.
“We were sitting in the car one day and we thought, why wouldn’t we do it? Now was the time to try. Then we started planning and next thing we knew we had products coming in,” says Nia of the beginning of the store. Nodding, Johan says the initial ideas were inspired by a lifestyle blog that Nia ran at that time. “A lot of the people who we’d met through [Instagram and blogging] networks heard about the idea and liked it, and encouraged us to do it.”
“We had met a lot of people who made a lot of amazing things, and we thought, ‘Well, wouldn’t it be great if we could support these local makers – even international makers – who didn’t have a platform to sell their work’,” says Nia.
Central to the philosophy of The Assembly Co is authenticity – real community, hospitality and conversation. Johan says this is personal for them. “When we look back, a lot of the best memories we have are of sitting around a table eating. We want to be part of that for others. We want people to buy a table of ours and think, ‘I need to put people around it and have a meal’.”
The couple wants to offer customers more than a consumer experience. To do this they have just launched a series of The Assembly Gatherings. The events involve sharing a meal that features The Assembly’s products, along with other local makers. Johan says that despite how simple the idea is people have been very receptive. “Many are hungry for community. When you have a gathering for the purpose of simply meeting new people, people are very open to being a part of that.”
At The Assembly Gatherings there is no chance of being caught in awkward small talk – the Neves go out of their way to make every guest feel comfortable. “We just went out and spoke to every person, we wanted to make them feel at home. And they loved it.”
Despite attending the same high school, the couple took a while to meet. One day Nia’s friend mistook Johan for a guy with the same name who had recently asked Nia out. “I had seen Nia around school and I thought she was a bit of a fox, so I said to her friend, “Give me Nia’s number, and I’ll call her up and iron this out.” “And she gave it to him!” Nia exclaims.
“So I call her up,” Johan continues, “and I say, ‘What’s this about us going out?’ That was a Sunday afternoon, and then I kept calling her every night after that until we got married.”
Johan’s parents didn’t want him to date until he turned 18 on April 26, so on the night of April 25 – as a recent graduate – he and a friend broke into the school and strung up a banner across the walkway that read, “Be Mine Nia”. “The day after I was called up by the school,” Johan laughs. “They said they needed to hear me say that I’d never do it again.”
But that was a lie, because when he proposed to Nia in 2010 after five years of dating, he painted his proposal on a wall at North Narrabeen. This time it read, “Marry Me Nia, Please”. “I took her down to the beach and said, ‘Look, what’s over there?’ And by the time she turned back around I was down on one knee.”
The Assembly Co will be running a pop up store in Surry Hills throughout July. Follow them for more information.