The high-end market is embracing this Wagga-based business

The high-end market is embracing this Wagga-based business

Making furniture exactly the way people want it is a big draw for Eclipse Handcrafted Furniture’s luxury and designer customers. Photo: Adam Drummond.

Finding his place in the furniture industry has been a decade-long roller coaster for Wagga’s Eclipse Handmade Furniture.

Owner Ross Triffitt and his wife started their business in the 80s selling furniture and giftware from wholesalers before hiring one craftsman working out of their old tin shed to make small batches of their own wooden furniture.

Eclipse’s style began with country cottage-style furniture in Wagga when it was barely seen in metro markets, and since then Eclipse’s style has seen numerous incarnations as it navigates changing contemporary aesthetic trends.

“My passion for many years has been feature-grade wood with its natural features such as knots and sap pockets that give the wood character,” says Ross.

“We always use wood from regrowth forests, certainly not from old-growth areas, and we prefer to work with native hardwood wood from mainland Australia, which I believe is undervalued… I want wood from the eucalyptus trees that grow on the continent and build awareness of their beauty, which is so diverse. Having eucalyptus species furniture in a home gives the residents a real connection to the Australian landscape.

“It is not without its challenges – producing furniture in native hardwoods can be time-consuming and unpredictable. We also experienced supply problems due to fires and floods. But I don’t see the point in importing wood when we are blessed with the most beautiful range of woods and hardwoods in the world.

“Our focus has always been very much on tailoring – making furniture exactly the way people want it, there is so much added value in that. But the demand for that type of furniture in the general retail market varies depending on what happens in the economy.”

Although he gave it a red-hot chance, it didn’t take long for Ross to see that Wagga was not the right market for Eclipse products.

Eclipse Handmade Furniture owner Ross Triffitt at the Wagga warehouse. Photo: Adam Drummond.

The next step was to venture into Canberra, a more suitable market. Yet Ross would soon discover the impact that political events had on retail businesses in the nation’s capital.

“When the election was called at the end of 2014, when Julia Gillard was prime minister and Tony Abbott looked like he was going to be elected, it really disrupted retail,” he said.

“Civil servants stopped spending, retail died, we tried to stick it out for a while after the election, but it became a real financial struggle.

“We had no choice but to try to get into the Sydney market, which we couldn’t really afford to do. But we managed to get there by the skin of our teeth, thanks mainly to the generosity of Ron Hall of Ron’s Removals in Wagga, who moved us there from Canberra.

“He told us: ‘It’ll be fine mate, just pay me when you can’. God bless him.”

The company started in a tin shed in Waterloo and gradually moved to better premises, eventually ending up in its current location – a beautiful studio in Beaconsfield.

It was a good move for Eclipse’s newest and, Ross believes, last pivot – the designer and luxury customer market.

Here, there is always a demand for the kind of timeless, well-made, custom furniture that Ross’s artisans love to make.

“The eastern suburbs are right on our doorstep and are our ultimate market,” says Ross.

“But it was not easy to tap into that market, because it requires a lot of investment.”

Attending a design fair in Sydney’s Darling Harbor last October aimed at commercial designers and architects was a turning point.

“It put us on the radar in the high-end designer market,” says Ross.

“We have dipped our toes into this market in previous years, but have relied heavily on the general retail market, which is notoriously fickle. The designer market is less affected by what happens in the general economy.

“We’ve launched ourselves into that market a lot now.”

Ross’ son Marc largely oversees Eclipse Handcrafted Furniture’s Sydney operation. Photo: Eclipse.

Although sticking with Aussie wood, Eclipse designs have in recent times shied away from the feature-grade wood that characterized its earlier styles in favor of select grade wood.

“In designer pieces, the size and how a piece works in context with the client’s overall vision is what matters most,” explains Ross.

“In previous years, we focused on the appearance of wood, with the natural features taking precedence. The high-end market is asking for a slimmer, select grade of wood, which has its beauty.”

Ross has largely placed the Sydney operation in the hands of the next generation of the Triffitt family – his son Marc.

A liquor cabinet by Eclipse Handcrafted Furniture. Photo: Eclipse.

Using his background in cabinetmaking and 10 years of experience in furniture design, Marc works with designers from consultation to fine-tuning and creating custom pieces for their clients.

“He’s seen so much growth,” Ross says.

“There are so many designers in Sydney and they are all so busy. I think we have now found the market for Eclipse Furniture.”

For more information, visit the Eclipse Furniture website.

Original article published by Dione David on Region Riverina.

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