With the motto ‘the best materials, the ultimate furniture’ Penny Camplisson has been on a mission to create outdoor furniture of the highest quality, durability and functionality for Australian conditions.
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Disappointed with the limitations of how wicker furniture was being manufactured by large scale producers, Penny Camplisson posed the question ‘well, how hard would it be to open our own factory?’. That whim of an idea led to the creation of Sydney’s luxury outdoor furniture brand Osier Belle.
The name Osier Belle translates as ‘beautiful wicker’ and is an apt description of the furniture made by the company (plus Belle also happens to be Penny’s maiden name!). With the motto ‘the best materials, the ultimate furniture’ Penny has been on a mission to create outdoor furniture of the highest quality, durability and functionality for Australian conditions. The materials have been specifically chosen to withstand the harshness of our climate when left outside but have the look and feel of high end indoor options.
And it’s not just the furniture that Penny cares about. She is also incredibly passionate about creating a nurturing work environment for the company’s 60 or so Indonesian employees and their families. Penny genuinely wants her employees to feel good about themselves and the work they are producing. With an almost spiritual verve, Penny has fostered a family atmosphere within the factory where employees can be comfortable, well fed and happy. It’s no wonder the ‘Belle family’ in Indonesia includes the best wicker craftsmen, metal workers, wood workers and upholsterers from the area.
The idea of manufacturing outdoor furniture came to Penny about 8 years ago. At the time she had an eBay selling site and had been approached by an international distributor of outdoor furniture who wanted a partner in Australia. A container was sent and Penny started selling this typical boxy synthetic wicker furniture. Having a keen eye for design and a strong focus on texture as well as an ear for customer feedback, Penny found that this mass produced furniture ‘just didn’t tick all the boxes’. Identifying a gap in the market for a more bespoke, luxurious product she dreamed of creating furniture with soul.
Probably the best asset Penny has is her lack of formal training in furniture manufacturing. By establishing her own factory, she was able to come up with unique designs that were not limited by the ‘usual’ construction methods. For example, she really wanted her wicker furniture to have the look of indoor sofas on raised legs and with curved and shaped frames. Technically, this is quite difficult to achieve (which is why most wicker furniture is to the floor on square frames). ‘No factory would bother. It takes time and there’s a lot of skill involved. Back then, everyone else was buying from big factory brochures the designs that were already being produced. I did it the other way around. I designed it then we figured out how to make it.’
From the beginning, Penny has never looked at what other people are doing. Osier Belle is forging its own path. All the designs are hand drawn on paper by Penny and for cushions and covers she has carefully selected a range of all weather fabrics from high end international suppliers.
‘The fabrics are really expensive per metre, but it’s worth it as the quality is incredible.’
The typical design process is that Penny dreams up an idea. On the ground in Indonesia she will ‘discuss’ it with her head of production (who doesn’t speak English!) and they will literally begin a prototype together based on rough drawings and notes. They start welding straight away to create the shape then will tweak and adjust til they like it and the prototype will then be drawn up as a design. Just as she did back in the days of her eBay store, Penny is always listening to customer feedback, so designs may be revised over time or even customised. ‘We can easily customise because everything is designed and made by us, it’s not mass produced!’
Penny is passionate about the little details that make a superior product. For example, there are often no seams or piped edges on seat cushions. This smooth finish cleverly reduces the build up of dirt and helps keep the cushion looking good. They use Serafil thread which is more expensive but better suited for outdoors than regular thread. And if you’ve ever struggled with squeezing big cushions into their covers (or simply put off cleaning them because it’s all too hard) you’ll appreciate details like zips on 3 sides so it’s easy to get covers on and off.
‘At Osier Belle it’s all about the customer experience and customer satisfaction. My profit margin is less, but I’ve never had anyone come back to replace anything – only to add to their collection. I feel it’s paid off because people can see the value in what we do.’
At Two Design Lovers we appreciate ‘slow’ furniture that turns its back on mass production in favour of getting the details right. Great design is a problem solving process and when done well, the product is a piece of furniture that looks fantastic and is built to last. We are also mightily impressed by the caring way Penny runs her factory.
It’s great to see an Australian company so heavily invested in creating beautiful products without compromise. Osier Belle ticks all the right boxes for us! It fits with our support of the Authentic Design Alliance, which promotes the value of investing in original furniture, lighting and interior products as well as our support for The Freedom Hub and its work against modern slavery.