Australian brand Harbour 1976 is one of those brands which you’ve most definitely admired but probably haven’t realised it. If you’ve stayed at a Four Seasons, the chances are you’ve sat in one of its chairs. If you’ve perused the outdoor collections at Restoration Hardware, it’s actually Harbour 1976, unbranded. And if you’ve ever had the occasion to visit the Google campus, you’ll find the brand’s designs there too. (That’s when you know a brand is worth giving your attention to.)
Along with the Four Seasons, Restoration Hardware and Google, the brand supplies to a plethora of other hotels, offices, stores and designers, including the Hollywood Bowl, The W Hotel, The Parker Palm Springs, The Marriott, The One and Only Resort, Hilton, Grace Bay, Saks Fifth Avenue, Westfield, DWR, Frontgate, Bluedot and Martyn Lawrence Bullard – many of which the brothers claim as some of their greatest highlights. With such an illustrious roster, you can be assured that Harbour 1976 the hottest ticket in al fresco furniture.
Founded in 1976 (as its name would suggest), Harbour Outdoor began life as Tecno Furniture by husband and wife team, Jim (a Greek craftsman with a background in metalwork) and wife Harriet Condos.
As time went on, Jim found himself with two eager apprentices. “From 9 years old [my brother Harrison and I] started helping our father, Jim, in his Sydney furniture workshop,” explains Nicholas, the younger of the two Condos brothers who now head their father’s business. “During our school holidays, our friends would be out surfing, but instead we spent our time in the family factory on the tools – drilling, bending tubes and learning what would later become the essential skills of craftsmanship,” he goes on to explain, “We didn’t really know, back then, the value of this early induction into furniture-making. A love of craftsmanship and obsession with the finer details in a design is what was passed on from the moment we picked up the furniture tools. It is, in our opinion, the reason why our designs stand out from the pack.”
The brothers may have taken an unusual route to headed the family business – Nicholas studied graphic design and Harrison started out in property development – but this early experience was deeply ingrained in them.
"The name Condos is synonymous with the word “blacksmith”. Since 1976, the Condos family have crafted hand-made furniture in their Sydney workshop."
“It wasn’t until my brother visited New York and saw an opportunity for our father’s business in 2010, that it was obvious that the family business was the best path for both of us to pursue,” says Nicholas.
Certainly a passion for their family business drove the brothers to tackle the forbidding challenge of international outreach. The brothers took the leap of faith by participating in the 2010 ICFF New York design show – their first show ever and one of their “proudest moments” according to Harrison. “We weren’t sure if our designs would appeal,” he mentions “but our gut instinct was right and the accolades came streaming in and orders were placed in our first show.”
Harbour 1976 had emerged into the international arena.
Inspired by the unique make-up of their family heritage, the brothers set out to scale up the production of what their father started all those years ago – outdoor furniture which encourages its owners to live their best life; outdoor furniture which could hardly be distinguished in quality, style or comfort from superior indoor furniture. To the brothers, enjoying outdoor living was just as important as enjoying indoor living (if not more).
“From a young age, Sydney beaches were at our doorstep,” explains Nicholas, “We really believe in enjoying a space where the indoors and outdoors feel seamless and at one with your natural surroundings. With this in mind, we’re naturally inspired to bring indoor comforts outside while bringing the fresh outdoors to the living room,” referencing the brand’s move into interior furniture in 2017.
And it isn’t just Australia that inspires the Harbour 1976 catalogue. The family draw on their Mediterranean links too. “We spend a lot of our time in Europe in the Summer,” says Harrison, “Our heritage is Greek and many days are spent enjoying time with our grandmother in Mykonos. [It’s] our favorite holiday destination – every year we visit and remember the healthy sun-drenched ways of life that shapes our family life and inspires our designs.”
The brand’s oeuvre is indebted to the diversities yet inherent similarities of both experiences – both claiming a penchant for the indoor/outdoor living which Harbour 1976 has come to epitomise. Simultaneously the brand references those modern Australian beach houses with clean lines and open spaces as well as that old Mediterranean charm with a focus on warm woods and fresh linen-like upholstery.
Form Versus Function
“We learned the art of function versus form from a young age because our father was a perfectionist at mastering the balance between the two” reveals Nicholas, “We put a lot of energy into the detailed form of our furniture, and it’s the little things you wouldn’t necessarily notice that make a product really stand out. This could include a particular way a table’s legs are welded, or the shape of a chair arm.”
But looks aren’t all the brand can offer. Its impressive list of achievements is testament to its comfort too. Nicholas says, “It’s all the finer characteristics of a product that define the beautiful form of a furniture piece but at the same time we know function plays an important role for sales. We refer to customer feedback from past collections so we can integrate a functional approach to our way of design.”
Speaking of the Harbour customer, it’s clear that the brand’s following appreciates an understated aesthetic with simple lines which allow the quality of their materials to do the talking. Nicholas describes this as “modern, minimalist with a focus on timeless design”. He goes on, “Our style is influenced by our native Australian home where everything is pared back and there’s a strong tie-in with indoor and outdoor seamless living. We believe in clean lines and keeping things simple; effortless form is very much the make-up of what we do.”
This sense of effortless form abounds in the brand’s catalogue, concisely summed up by this statement on its website: “Whether it’s indoors or outdoors, Harbour 1976 extends its aesthetic of clean lines and pared down modern luxury in every aspect of design.”
A New Home
And where better to make an impact with “pared down modern luxury” than in the land of eternal summers and design obsession? Having moved the company’s head office away from east coast New York, the brothers have added a third locale inspiration – the optimistic and intrinsically carefree environment of Los Angeles. The outdoor-obsessed city struck a design chord with the brothers who grew up “learning to appreciate the beauty of a coastal environment” and has, in its own way, inspired their collections.
“Since we’ve moved to Los Angeles, we’ve discovered a strong correlation of our aesthetic among Californians. Here, in our new home, it’s encouraging to see there’s an appreciation for our signature collections with a laidback luxury coastal aesthetic. The love of relaxed outdoor living is a shared commonality between Californians and Australians. Now in our designs we focus a lot on teak designs that draw the surrounds of nature into one’s indoor or outdoor living settings.”
Not Your Average
Nicholas really says it all. “Harbour Outdoor isn’t your average furniture company,” the designer assures, “We’re a lifestyle brand, steeped in a culture that promotes the Australian way of life. This includes our love of harbour life, outdoors, travel, nature, modern design all expressed through each and every single furniture collection. Our signature aesthetic is fresh, light, modern, coastal, luxe-inspired and stems from generations of Australian design which appeals to a very broad range of hotel customers. The timeless, modern appeal of our furniture makes it an easy choice for architects and designers. We also pay close attention to the quality of the fabrication of our products. We scour the world to ensure we are working with the best materials that can withstand the elements, and this makes our collections applicable to a wide variety of settings all over the world.”