Sinking into soft leather at the end of a long day is about as luscious as it gets. It’s a feeling that furniture brand James Stewart are brining to design savvy Australian consumers with an eye for both quality and style.

The Queensland-based brand is focused on outstanding craftmanship, manufacturing and service. Founders Ian MacFarlane and Susie Wall both have decades of experience in the furniture industry, and a deep understanding of the aspects of design which make comfort and luxury a reality.

The company’s name is inspired by Ian’s great, great uncle, James Stewart, a Scottish émigré who opened one of the first department stores in Australia on Brisbane’s Queen Street in 1860. James Stewart & Co. was revolutionary for its time, with custom home furnishings and manufacturing a key focus.

James Stewart Founders Ian MacFarlane and Susie Wall

It’s that vision and incredible eye for detail which Ian and Susie seek to evoke with the modern incarnation of the brand. James Stewart‘s beautifully curated collections of thoughtfully designed styles and top grain leathers make each piece they produce unique and timeless. 

Clean lines highlight the honest, natural beauty of the leather, which is handcrafted and fashioned for durability, livability and effortless style.

“As an independently owned business, we believe material quality, craftsmanship and design are important aspects of creating beautiful furniture,” says Susie.

2020 presented us all with challenges but Susie says that part of the James Stewart ethos is to see challenges as opportunities. When Covid hit, they made the decision early on to prioritise clients with custom orders already placed, increasing the level of proactive communication with them.
“We also anticipated the need to increase the frequency of communication with our retailers, designers and specifiers in order to significantly assist their own management of customers and clients’ expectations,” says Susie.

One of the key issues for the Australian design industry throughout COVID-19 has been disruptions to the global supply chain.

“It reminded us of the value of maintaining a large stock program in Australia. Because they are made by hand, some of our leathers alone take up to 12 weeks to produce from order, so additional focus was given to how our stock program could be improved to better support our client base for easier decision making.”

A Craving for Reassurance and Comfort in the Home

The fraught international landscape over the past year has led to a desire for a colour palette that instills a sense of tranquility and comfort.

“People are embracing calming, soft, warm palettes and natural materials that create a sense of retreat in their home and office,” says Susie.

Susie has also noticed that the decluttering of interiors has become more than a passing phase to the endless ‘buy-then-purge’ cycle of decor. As Vivienne Westwood famously said: “Buy once. Buy well.” Fast furniture is becoming a faux pas – consumers are looking for more mindful products and more information about material quality and provenance.

However, while trends come and go, there is always the demand for the sensory nature of high-quality, hand-finished leather.

“We want to embrace higher quality natural materials that feel striking and impressive and by their very nature less disposable. More biophilic design (a gravitation toward hues that mimic the sensation of being in nature), plus colours that promote internal peace in a time when mental and physical wellness are critical. Our hand-finished leather palette is more organic in color and tone, mirroring true hues found naturally,” says Susie.

James Stewart’s gorgeous ranges manage to be both classic and transitional. Superstar pieces include enduring classic track arm sofas such as the Redford; a modern and yet timeless sofa that suits every interior. The Harrow is perfect for lovers of both mid-century styling and classic tuft detailing, as found in Chesterfield sofas (both pictured in feature image at the top of this article).

The Arlie sofa from James Stewart

The Arlie sofa is loved for its pillowy and floating seating aloft minimal feet. It’s a modern mix of tight seat and pillow cushions all sewn into the one piece. Minimalist design at its best.

The pandemic has seen many of us rethink how we use our homes and offices, with a nascent fusion between the two and an increased demand for stylish and ergonomic desk chairs and furniture which fits more with personal identity and aesthetics. This direction is a match for the James Stewart aesthetic of chic comfort.

The Royce is a fabulous adult’s automotive channeled bassinet, promulgating a fun 70’s vibe. 
The Mason bucket seat office chair provides high level comfort and sharp looks. It’s ideal for the home executive with a love of Italian styling.

We can’t wait to see what James Stewart bring to Decor + Design and the Australian International Furniture Fair (AIFF) in July.

“With new collections and a curated range of designs showcasing our leathers we are ready to show and celebrate,” says Susie.

“Trade fairs are still a key part of our industry. The reality that shows might even have more virtual components is not lost on us, but at the end of the day, we need human connection and human touch. It won’t be about the size of your booth or how high and thick your walls are.”

“It will be about our products; the way they feel, the story we can bring to life and on show. For those who are also searching for the new experiences in furnishings, we can’t wait to share it!”

Don’t miss James Stewart at Decor + Design and the Australian International Furniture Fair, 15 – 18 July at Melbourne Exhibition Centre.

Australia’s No.1 Interiors Trade Event will showcase hundreds of exhibitors from across indoor and outdoor furniture, lighting, soft furnishings, textiles, art and more.

Register now to attend – the exhibition is free but limited to design and furniture trade visitors.