Special Nonexistent Furniture

Australian brands we love: Oliveri

Since 1947, under its various iterations, Oliveri has been shaping Australian kitchen sinks and tapware and has recently stepped into the bathroom game. We sat down with National Sales Manager Ben Pugh to get the story behind the name, their focus on local manufacturing and sustainability, and the design trends taking off at the moment.

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What's the story behind the name?

We actually started as a metal fabrication business in Adelaide called Watkins and Starr. The business changed hands a couple of times and was known as Tasman Sinks for quite a long period. About 20 years ago, the owners were looking for an appropriate name to take the business global and were sitting in a restaurant in Adelaide, quite a well known Argentinian steak restaurant called Gaucho's, writing on napkins after a few bottles of wine. One of the owners wrote Oliveri, and if you notice the accent over the 'e', that's actually not an accent, it's a tick from when the owners decided that was the one. 

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How has Oliveri grown over the last 74 years?

Not long after founding, we pioneered a process of deep drawn sinks, where large stainless steel sheets are pressed, stretching them into sink bowls, and became quite well known as the leader of that style. Now, we're the only manufacturer that remains in Australia. That's a really good vote of confidence and something we're quite proud of The business was very kitchen sink-focused and then started looking at other categories and decided that if we can't manufacture a particular type of product here that we'd find a centre of excellence around the world for that product, like our granite products from Italy. We started looking into tapware over the last 10 or 15 years and have been in the bathroom space for about three years now.

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Why are you so passionate about working with local manufacturers?

We've got a heritage of pioneering manufacturing processes and fine-tuning the best ways to do things, so even when we work with other manufacturing bases, we still take a lead role in developing the process with our partners. Particularly given the current climate, it's challenging to import, so we see it as something that's really important that Australia has that capability and continues to invest in that so we can be self-sufficient. 

What is your design process?

When we're talking about our stainless steel sink ranges, we start with, 'What are the limitations of what we can manufacture here?'. We build a framework around that, then look at what consumer insights are going to drive acceptance of the range. We look at trends around the world, particularly emerging trends in Europe and the US. Our design team in Australia then sketches out the range and we put it to the manufacturing teams for feasibility and timing. We work with our retail partners as well, so if we've got concepts, we'll ask our clients 'How do you see this fitting within your range? How do you see this sitting with your customer base?' and that helps us to work out whether certain designs are viable or not. 

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How are Australian aesthetics different from other parts of the world?

There are some things that we do here that are unique to Australia in terms of functionality, like we don't have overflow functions on our sinks. Maybe Australians are more water-smart and don't leave the taps on. We also have specific standards that have to be met in terms of water flow and design, for example, you can't have a square sink with corners at right angles. A lot of people like that aesthetic, but it's actually against the Australian standards because it's unhygienic; you can't clean it properly.

Where things differ from a design and consumer perspective, we're seeing a push towards more bold colours and finishes with people looking to express themselves in the home where they can't through travel. Particularly with stainless steel, we're seeing a spike in colours like gunmetal, brushed nickel, gold, copper and black. We're also unique in that our sinks are polished to almost a mirror finish and generally around the world stainless steel products have a brushed finish. We're also seeing a big trend towards granite sinks here, where there's a lot more natural stone usage in North America and Europe.

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How has people spending more time at home impacted design choices?

We are definitely seeing more soft edges, the square look is out. People are going for more organic, naturally flowing designs and are very focused on quality. I think since COVID, people want to feel like their home is their sanctuary, and they want the two most important parts of the home, the kitchen and the bathroom, to have that resort feel with quality finishes.

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Tell us about your most recent products.

We've significantly expanded our granite kitchen sink ranges and introduced our Florence range from our factory in Milan. We've made more design options available to consumers because we know that the supply chain is an issue, so we want to make sure if we're out of stock of one product, we have others that are close enough to still achieve the aesthetic and functionality that the customer's looking for. In particular, white granite sinks have really started to grow in prevalence, so that's where we've put a lot of focus most recently. The other thing we're doing is colour tapware in the kitchen, bringing out bright golds and natural finishes like brass which develops a beautiful patina over time. In our bathroom areas as well, once again it's all about colour and bringing new materials into that room. 

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How does your zero-waste facility in Adelaide work?

After the big rolls of stainless steel are cut down to shape, all our scraps or offcuts are recycled and reworked into new sheets. Nothing gets sent to landfill, so everything that's consumed or used in our factory is reworked, recycled or upcycled into either new products or new packaging. All of our packaging is fully recyclable, so we don't generate any waste, at all. For a heavy industry manufacturing process, to be able to do that is really quite a unique thing.

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What goes into sourcing your 100% recyclable stainless steel and packaging?

We have a team in Adelaide who work through the entire product lifecycle end to end, tracing the sourcing of materials right to their base. They look at understanding everything that goes into those materials, understanding how they can be reused or recycled, and then what can we do to make sure that actually happens. It's quite an in-depth process and we get audited once a year by the International Organization for Standardization to make sure we maintain those standards. We've got ISO certification for safety, sustainability and quality, and we're very proud of that level of certification so we try to make sure we're constantly investing in those areas to improve. Now we're very much focused on our energy consumption and had a 2025 target of reducing our energy consumption by 30% from baseline, which we've already achieved. Our new targets are focused on seeing if we can switch to 100% renewable, looking into covering the whole roof with solar panels and batteries so that we can run completely off-grid.

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What is it about Australia that inspires your work?

I think the fact that as a nation we're so house proud. We love renovating and we love DIY projects, so to be with a business that has such a huge influence on how proud you can be with your home is exciting. We're front and centre of the the kitchen and bathroom, the two areas that people renovate most in their home. Any time you're talking to a customer or helping a customer with their clients, to talk and get them excited about the look of their renovation or new home design, that's good fun. 
 

Why is it so important to support Australian business?

If we don't have local businesses supporting local jobs, we don't have our culture, we don't have our economy and we don't have the standard of living that we all enjoy. The more Australians can support Australian owned, Australian manufactured products, the more sustainable our economy and our lifestyle will be. We're passionate about local manufacturing, we're passionate about supporting local business. We collaborate with our retail partners, our merchants and our builders and they're all Aussie businesses, so for us, it's of vital importance that everyone remembers that the more we support local, the more we prosper.

Shop our range of Oliveri kitchen and bathroom sinks, tapware and accessories now. 
Bridgette Sulicich
Bridgette Sulicich 29 October, 2021

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