Sittting comfortably: Leonard Georgopoulos, managing director of Arthur G Furniture, at the company's Richmond showroom.
One of the first pieces of furniture that Arthur Georgopoulos designed and made in Melbourne has pride of place at the business's Huntingdale factory. When he crafted the Spanish-influenced wooden chair, upholstered in bright-red leather, Georgopoulos was a new arrival in Australia. He was one of many Greek migrants who travelled halfway across the world during the 1960s in search of opportunities and a better life. Through a passion for design and hard work, Georgopoulos discovered both. The Arthur G furniture design and manufacturing business began as a hobby in the garage of his Mount Waverley home. Today it has become the prestigious Arthur G brand with a factory in Huntingdale, showrooms in Sydney and Perth, and a modern flagship shop in Church Street, Richmond. "Furniture making was a hobby for my father when he arrived from Greece. It was something he was passionate about - designing pieces and then crafting them," explains managing director Leonard Georgopoulos, 33. He joined his father 10 years ago and has brought his own ideas to the family company. "My father came from a family of farmers in southern Greece and arrived in Australia at the age of 17. He worked in textile manufacturing in different factories and made furniture in his spare time because he loved it. Gradually he started to sell his pieces and through word of mouth he began receiving more orders," Leonard says. "Eventually he hired a truck and drove around Melbourne, visiting furniture retailers and promoting his furniture. It sold, and so word travelled from showroom to showroom about his designs until the time came when he had enough orders coming in to open a workshop in Clayton." Leonard's earliest memories of the business are as a child, helping his father when he used to sell his furniture at the annual Home Show at the Royal Exhibition Building. "During school holidays I'd go to the factory and see all the machinery, which used to fascinate me, and as I got older I'd earn pocket money cutting leather, helping to assemble different pieces," Leonard recalls. "When I finished studying I knew I'd be foolish to walk away from the business and, like dad, by then I also found furniture and design exciting." Arthur G officially opened in 1977, for many years wholesaling to large and independent furniture stores around the country. But when Leonard joined the company after completing a bachelor of business at Swinburne University, Arthur G began selling through its own showrooms. "The retail sector was changing and stores were importing more products and so we felt we needed our own showrooms to do the products justice," Leonard says. The Church Street showroom opened two years ago. "Church Street was the right demographic for us. We're a high-end brand and exclusive. People come here for something different, for quality and to invest in products that will last. If they've just bought or built a new home and the fixtures and fittings are high quality, it's important their furniture matches that," he says. Arthur G designs and manufactures products for apartments and penthouses and can also be found in many of Melbourne's upmarket private homes. The brand is also a favourite with architects and interior designers working on commercial projects, including resort accommodation on Lizard Island, Harrolds men's wear in Collins Street and Google's offices in Sydney. The business has an extensive range of furniture designs on tap and also makes to order, customising to suit a client's tastes and available space. All designs are created in-house and all products are manufactured at the Huntingdale factory. The company sources its solid timbers, full-grain leathers and other materials from a select group of suppliers, and it has been awarded the Good Environmental Choice Australia Eco-Label. "Our products were given the green tick of approval a couple of years ago. It proves our materials come from sustainable sources and that our materials are free of certain chemicals," says Leonard. "We felt it was important and our responsibility as an Australian manufacturer to embrace that. It's something we believe in and it's where the industry is heading. We need to be heading in that same direction." Regular trips overseas provide inspiration for future design trends. The retro look is in vogue, such as 1970s-style leather couches with button-studded backs. Modular couches are also popular, as are shades of blue. "Trends are broken up these days and classic designs are timeless and will always appeal," Leonard says. With orders for Arthur G designs continuing to flow through the showrooms in Church Street, Perth and Sydney, Leonard sees a busy future ahead for the business. "Dad still loves the industry as much as he did when he started making furniture in his garage. But I don't think he ever imagined the business would end up as it has. There were a number of migrants, like dad, who have achieved amazing things whether they started a fish-and-chip shop, a fruit shop, a restaurant or a furniture business. They worked hard and made that better life for themselves," he says. "Since dad began taking his first orders, the business has never looked back and Arthur G has continued to evolve. People today are spending more on their home, they are taking more pride in their home and they want to furnish their home accordingly. People will always want quality and beautiful furniture that will last - and that's what the Arthur G brand is all about." Arthur G, 618 Church Street, Richmond, 9429 6696