The 1980s were a decade of weird and wonderful excess. The emergence of Memphis Design, made famous for its whimsical colourful aesthetic and contrasting patterns and shapes, ran parallel with new fashion and the bright patterns and colour of Australia’s Ken Done and Jenny Kee clothing.
French designer Philippe Starck turned his focus to mass-produced designer homewares. Most famous of all is the sculptural Salif Juicer he designed for Alessi. Marc Newson designed the aluminium Lockheed Lounge and Australian interiors were emerging from the modernist era recently explored by the Mid-Century Modern exhibition presented by the National Gallery of Victoria in 2014.
It was also the decade when a small independent retailer from Sydney, Australia travelled to Korea and Japan to source new homewares for a wholesale company she established with her husband. Marion Horgan knocked on doors prepared to do business, but factory owners were not used to making business arrangements with a woman. After many rejections, her persistence eventually resulted in the first of many trade connections in the region. Marion has since developed longstanding relationships with suppliers in Europe and other parts of Asia.
Marion’s son Sam Horgan recalls that in the early days of the wholesale business his father drove from Sydney to Melbourne with products in the back of his car to deliver them to the company’s first trade fair. Now HORGANS has custom designed trade stands and an experienced team to build and dismantle them.
“It’s all about checklists and procedures,” he says. “The hardest part is always the creativity side particularly because Marion adores pushing the envelope and adores making sure that we can do better and look better.”
Horgan describes his mother as a very creative and design orientated person. Her influence continues to play a major part in the selection and curation of the vast range of furniture and homewares which HORGANS supplies to the design and retail trade. Marion spends around five months each year travelling overseas on buying tips and sourcing new products to grow their collection. “She is also very active in set design whether that is for trade fairs or our showrooms. She is constantly overseas, she is always looking for something different and she is very focused on being that point of difference.”
Preparations are already underway for their stand at Decor + Design in Melbourne this year. “We have what we call the Elegant Look which people can interpret to be either French or European. And then we have a very Urban look which his very city-looking and modern,” Horgan explains. The plan is to present a consistent theme. “Our best look,” he says, “and concentrate on that.” Over the five years HORGANS has exhibited at previous Decor + Design shows the company has found that their room settings have great appeal to visitors and work extremely well in capturing their attention.
Sam and his sister Renee have worked full-time in the business since finishing school. They worked their way through the company from the warehouse to become assistant buyers, supporting their mother’s product sourcing adventures and deciding on the potential of each product. They also manage the operational side of the business which keeps every staff member busy. With showrooms in Sydney and Melbourne they are always on the move, meeting with clients and responding to enquiries. Their wholesale showrooms in Richmond, Melbourne and St Peters, Sydney welcome interior designers, event companies, retail and commercial clients.
With the knowledge and experience he has gathered over the last 13 years, observing and analysing international design trends and sourcing new product, Horgan notes that new hotels and galleries, particularly those developments that are planned three years ahead, provide clues to design trends. Individual pieces of furniture, accessories and design details are markers of future trends and find their way into new collections.
“It is very interesting to see the trends coming through. You do see it first in commercial projects whether it be a restaurant or hotel because that is where they have the money to spend on a new design for a particular look, particularly restaurants in New York or Paris,” he says. “And then from that the residential side might pull a piece, whether it’s a table or chair, and then they start replicating that through the home.”
Horgan believes that the trend for this year is on unique pieces that make a statement. Gone are the days when statement pieces clutter a whole room. For example, he says that investing in a good looking coffee table rather than a collection of different sized coffee tables will command more attention and will be money well spent. He is particularly excited about a new range of large fibreglass tables exclusive to HORGANS and which are due to be released in the next few weeks. “They look like they’re for indoors but can be used in an alfresco living area,” he says. “We have never seen that before and we are the only Australian company doing that.” The company’s success can be traced back to its long record of service and supply and the longstanding relationships the family has built with manufacturers from all over the world. HORGANS supplies everything from cutlery to chandeliers, lounges, cushions, wall decorations, bed heads, linen, carpets and furniture for dining, bedroom and living rooms.
They have also built relationships with real estate agents who recommend their home styling service to home owners and developers. This branch of the business has been in operation for three years and keeps their two in-house interior designers busy full-time.
“Yes it’s a very broad range but we always need to be very specific in design,” Horgan says. “Our main objective is to make everything as elegant as possible.”