For this design team, it’s not just about the product, it’s about the story.
Simon Napier Brown comes from a proud history of furniture designers. Visiting the TH Brown workshop from a young age, he fell in love with the iconic mid-century modern (MCM) design and never looked back. With his wife Toni, they’re a formidable design team, with creativity and passion in spades.
“My grandfather, Thomas H Brown, first established the TH Brown furniture brand in 1911 in Adelaide and gained a strong following,” says Simon. “Creating beautiful furniture is something that captivated both my father Peter and myself. My uncle Napier Brown and my father took on the business in 1964 and from the age of 12, I helped at the workshop during school holidays.”
From the 1950s through to the late 1980s, Peter Brown designed a range of pieces that utterly defined Australian MCM furniture. Now internationally recognised, many of these iconic designs are considered the most collectable pieces of Australian furniture ever produced. After a hiatus and to the delight of their customers, TH Brown with their manufacturing partner Workspace Commercial Furniture (formerly TH Brown) is back to producing their iconic TH Brown heirloom pieces, with each one forged by craftsman to the same exacting standards as the original product. Backed by a 10-year warranty, each piece has a unique serial number and comes with a certificate of authenticity.
“In 2015, Toni and I were renovating our Phillip Cox-designed MCM home in Sydney. I immediately remembered the iconic pieces my father had designed and realised they would be perfect for our new home. As we went about looking for vintage TH Brown pieces, we soon recognised that my father had left a heritage of classic Australian MCM design, and that the emerging MCM furniture design trend perfectly suited the TH Brown back catalogue,” says Simon. “In 2017 we relaunched the TH Brown brand and began manufacturing our most famous and immediately recognisable design of all, the internationally collected Danish bar stool, which proved to be an instant success. After that, we soon launched the Martelle bar stool, followed by the Frisco, Aquarius and Venus coffee tables, and in 2022 the Trend Modular Lounge series.”
As iconic, original designs, TH Brown pieces are distinctive, sleek and timeless and work with many different interior styles. While Simon’s personal design style is one of simplicity, clean lines and form that meets function in a sustainable, ethical way, Toni loves to add a bit of vibrancy. “My overall style sense is MCM, but I like to combine the aesthetic with bright and vibrant colour. For me, inspiration arises when I look at new designs by up-and-coming designers who see the world differently, and the resonance with our pieces,” says Toni.
TH Brown’s back catalogue includes pieces from 1911 through to the 1980s, and offers an archive of influential design to draw from for the business for years to come. The most popular current pieces were all designed by Peter Brown — the Danish bar stool from the early 1960s, the Venus coffee table from 1969 and the Trend Module Lounge from the 1970s — but Simon’s favourite is the Aquarius coffee table. “It screams 1960s new-age design,” he says. “It’s simple, elegant and feels like it reaches for the sky. I love it in teak with the clear glass.” For Toni, it’s the outdoor lounge. “We just released the Trend outdoor lounge and I love it in the black and white stripe option,” she says. “We have it in our pool area and I smile every time I see it. I sit there with family and friends and it represents a place of wonderful conversation and much laughter. As a piece, it gives me joy. We choose wisely who we spend our time with and we should do the same with design.”
The way that Simon and Toni work together is the backbone of their success. The secret sauce, they say, is playing to each other’s strengths and supporting each other’s limitations. For Simon, his knowledge and understanding of TH Brown pieces, and his unwavering commitment to quality, ensure each piece lives up to its legacy. Toni, with her experience in management and marketing, brings a deep understanding of how to share the TH Brown story and deliver on customer service. “We love hearing the stories of furniture from our customers and the lives the pieces themselves have lived,” she reflects.
Ultimately, buying a piece from Australia’s oldest operating furniture brand is not just about the quality or design, it’s the story. “My father used to say, if you’re going to do something, do it well, design it beautifully, craft it once and with perfection, and use it for generations to come,” says Simon. “The beauty of great design is in the story it tells, of those who imagined it, those who created it, and those who take pleasure from it, where it becomes part of the story of life itself.”
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