a history snapshot

Celebrating the wonder of learning for over 60 years.

Frontage of the original Furnware factory.

1934 - We opened our doors

The world was in the grip of the Great Depression, but in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand we opened our doors on a brand new business. We were craftsmen of high quality wooden furniture and a few interesting little product offshoots on the side – polo balls and coffins for instance!

Primary/Intermediate school desk and chair of this era.

1950’s – The classrooms came calling

The post war baby boom was in full swing and new schools were being built all over the country. Our expertise in crafting wooden furniture was in high demand and we relished the opportunity to join the growing education sector.

It was all about durability and functionality in those days – comfy, supportive furniture was just a dream for wriggly, distracted kids in the ‘50’s.

The plastic fantastic Polystak chair.

1970’s – Our staff wore flares and our chairs got a makeover

There was nothing subtle about the 70’s. Our trusty plywood chairs gave way to plastic fantastic and some super groovy colour options.

Education mobile units were big in classrooms the 80's.

1980’s – Accessories were big

We expanded into a range of furniture to enhance our desks and chairs. Mobile units, trolleys, lab benches and stools, draft desks and assembly forms became part of our offering. Schools were beginning to change and we wanted to support the growing focus on better learning.

Our raft racing team applied the same team spirit to new business opportunities.

1989 – The game changes significantly - from six government customers to 2,500 schools!

The New Zealand government introduced significant reforms that saw schools given control of their own budgets and administration. Schools could at last order the furniture they needed, when they needed it. The school gates were opened and we relished the chance to find out what schools, teachers and students really wanted. Our sales force was born.

Hamish Whyte and the Furnware team.

1993 – Hamish Whyte purchases Furnware and a new era begins

Hamish Whyte and his family became sole owners of Furnware in 1993. A charismatic, hardworking leader, Hamish focused on quality and people, expanding the sales force and forging strong relationships with schools that are just as strong today.

Hamish Whyte presenting paramedic and resuscitation kits to the St John Ambulance service.

Hamish led a focus on true customer support. Constantly on the road and in the classrooms he lived the philosophy that the company needed to walk in the shoes of its customers  - and also support its communities. We began a sponsorship programme supporting education organisations and a wide range of community groups – and it continues in all of our markets today.

Hamish bungy jumping with Techno Chair.

1990’s – Our range continues to expand and we go to extraordinary lengths to quality test our products

Hamish takes a leap of faith in the Furnware Techno chair.

Hamish on a trade mission to Jakarta.

Mid 1990’s – We look to the world

By the mid ‘90’s the world was beckoning and Hamish was keen to see what schools overseas were doing to improve learning spaces. He returned with great ideas he shared with the team and our customers – and saw that Furnware’s own innovative approach to furniture was highly appealing in global markets. By the end of the decade, we were marketing our products in Australia, USA and Europe.

Kids come in all shapes and sizes.

2003/4 – We hit the road and measured over 20,000 students to see how learning could be improved.

We’d looked everywhere and couldn’t find any meaningful data that showed how the size and makeup of children had changed over the years. So we travelled the country measuring 20,000 children of all shapes and sizes. The results were jaw dropping and completely changed the way we designed and built furniture.

Bodyfurn's® innovative designs reflected the ways students of all sizes used school furniture.

2005 – Bodyfurn® revolutionises classrooms

We were convinced there was a better way to help students learn – and we found it. Our award winning Bodyfurn® range was a direct result of the extensive research we undertook. The innovative designs reflected the ways students of all sizes used school furniture.

Hamish with some Bodyfurn® fans.

Components of the chairs actually moved as the kids moved, improving comfort, physical wellbeing and focus. The range attracted significant media interest and awards, including the Designer Institute of  NZ’s Design Innovation Award in 2005 - but the approval that mattered most came from the students and teachers themselves. They couldn’t believe the huge difference the furniture made to comfort and concentration.

Furnware's new premises in Hawke's Bay.

2005/6 – We build a new space for our expanding business

It became a bit of a squeeze in our old New Zealand offices so by 2006 we’d built a brand new light and airy space for our team and to better display our expansive furniture range. Growing demand also meant we expanded our production capacity, continuing to invest in state of the art technology.

Students of Mary McKillop Catholic Regional, enjoying their new space playing UNO.

2009 – G’day Australia

Just like our belief that living in the classrooms gave us a better understanding of learning, we also knew we wanted to live in our key overseas markets to offer the best customer experience possible. In 2009 we opened our first Australian office in Victoria. Today we have offices in Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide servicing every state from top to bottom.

The Singapore American School has a wonderfully creative theme for its first graders.

2014 – Singapore opens its doors

Our Singapore office services the thriving Asian market.  A dynamic and forward looking market, we’ve formed exciting partnerships with schools working to bring their learning visions to life in new ways.

The 3D app will really bring your ideas to life.

2016 – New wave innovation with our 3D learning space design app

Bringing better learning outcomes to life is what we do – but we wanted to take it a step further and put that power right into the hands of our customers. Working with world leaders in 3D software design we’ve created a revolutionary app that will design a learning space, putting all furniture options in place so customers can immediately see how it will look in their own classrooms – in photo realistic 3D glory!  It’s a creative, exciting way to work hand in hand with schools to plan and explore better learning spaces.

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