furniture designers alison chamberlain & stephen gibson
Down and away from the main thoroughfare of Newtown in Sydney's inner-west is a quieter and leafier street. It's dotted with a few art galleries and parks, as well as one of the suburb's best kept secrets. Original Finish may have been making furniture for over 20 years, but it's not always known beyond aficionados of quality and craftmanship in the interiors industry. That's partly because the owners and designers Alison Chamberlain and Stephen Gibson are softly spoken and humble people who like to focus on customers, and the tables and chairs - as well as sofas and armchairs - they create for them. "People change houses more often than they change a table," Alison says during a visit. It's important to understand exactly what they want, and that takes time, she adds.
For those people who have discovered Original Finish, they are often lifelong devotees. Alison points to a chair they are reworking for one of their original customers. She says people sometimes become so attached to their purchases they bring them back to rework them to fit in with a new home or interior.
This concept of repurposing objects lives large in the showroom of Original Finish. The building is a former bakery, and the couple have maintained its character while making it a place to display their work, and provide their family with a home. Downstairs is also their workshop, where their team of craftsmen and women restore antiques and heirlooms.
Which five words best describe you? We are who we are.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? Finding our building in the early 80s full of wonderful industrial artefacts – and discovering the concept of adaptive re-use.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Quality takes time.
What’s your proudest career achievement? Navigating the new global manufacturing paradigm.
What’s been your best decision? To trust our instincts and start Original Finish.
Who inspires you? Ruth Watson - who understands that business decisions have an integral personal and emotional aspect.
What are you passionate about? Good writing, marine conservation.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Right now it’s Ruth Watson – again! Anybody who has watched Country House Rescue and knows our building will understand why.
What dream do you still want to fulfill? Conserving our lovely old heritage building in a way that will still allow people to enjoy long after we are gone.
What are you reading? Chapman’s odyssey by Paul Bailey, and Jeanette Winterson’s Why be happy when you could be normal.
images natalie walton - courtesy of original finish