A FAMILY-RUN furniture firm in Kilkenny is going against the grain by expanding into the growing UK market, where it has seen a significant boom in sales.
Half of Fineline Furniture’s sales for the first six months of this year have been into the UK. Now the handcrafted furniture makers are bucking the trend in one of the sectors hardest hit by the recession and investing in a new showroom in London.
They’re also hoping more homeowners here, who may be tired of disposable clutter and want good-quality Irish-made furniture that will stand the test of time, will focus on their unique range.
Tommie Hughes says that, while it has been a tough few years for Fineline Furniture and the sector as a whole, the uniqueness of their products, their quality and their reputation for producing hand-crafted, durable pieces is now spurring a new generation of buyers to visit their new showroom on the Hebron Industrial Estate on the edge of Kilkenny city.
“What we make isn’t disposable. It’s not a fad. Our pieces will never date or end up in a skip. Our tables in particular have stood the test of time and all the punishment that normal family life brings with it,” he said. “The traditional table is a place where families gather, where good and bad news is shared. It’s where homework is done and stories are told. Every time we make a table we keep this in mind.”
Two recent UK trade shows have significantly boosted business for Fineline Furniture. They say their decision to open a showroom in London in February 2013 is a bold move but a necessary investment to ensure that the firm continues to grow into the future.
“We have one of the biggest ranges of Irish made furniture in Ireland. They love it in the UK and our high street UK shop will open in February and hopefully, introduce our range to even more buyers,” he said.
Each hand-crafted table, chair or occasional piece of furniture produced at Fineline Furniture is made using traditional methods of cabinet-making. Customers who visit the Kilkenny showroom can see pieces being made in the adjoining craft workshop.
Mr Hughes trained as a cabinetmaker in Ireland and the US, coming back home to set up the business with his wife, Mary.
“The pieces Tommie and the cabinet makers in the workshop make are not just functional,” Mary says. “They enhance any room, they please the eye and radiate craftsmanship. We really pride ourselves on our attention to detail and design all our furniture in our craft workshop here. We take inspiration from the gentle curves of the grain within the natural timber, matching the colours and textures of the wood to create individual and unique pieces of furniture.”