An Evolving Legacy – Elton Group

Words by Hayley Curnow
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Leading in innovative timber veneers, Elton Group is renowned for a curated approach to product. Founded over 70 years ago, today the company is driven by sustainability and community-minded principles, elevated through enduring partnerships with world-leading manufacturers.

Elton Group applies a design lens to the curation of unique timber veneer products for the Australian market. Established in Melbourne in the 1930s, the company’s humble beginnings belie the expertise and design nous of the company today. “Our mission is to empower the Australian design industry to create opportunity through every product selection, colour range and conversation,” reveals Elton Group Director Karen Griffin. With a long legacy of supplying timber veneers to the design industry, Karen, alongside Managing Director Dylan Kane and Sales Director Max Mascitti, affirms the spirit of the company instilled with the passion of its founder, Karen’s late husband Michael Elton.

“We’re constantly curating our product offer and experimenting with the expressive languages of timber,” says Karen.

“From the age of 16, Michael was trained by his great-uncle – a German timber merchant who emigrated to Australia just before the Second World War,” Karen says. The duo travelled all over the world buying prized and exotic veneers for the furniture industry, establishing a relationship with Italian timber producers Alpi – the first manufacturers of re-cut timber veneer. “Michael’s great uncle became the first export customer of Alpi’s re-cut veneer,” explains Karen. “We’ve now partnered with them for over 50 years – it’s been a wonderful ongoing narrative.”

Re-cut timber veneer was first developed in the early 1900s, but the production technique was redefined by Alpi in the 1960s. Operating from the quaint Italian town of Modigliana, Alpi steams logs sourced from plantations and managed forests and rotary peels them into micro- thin veneer sheets to maximise yield. The sheets are toned to produce variations in colour, then re-pieced into ‘square logs’ to create straight grain products or moulded into ‘curved logs’ to replicate naturalistic crowns and timber grains when cut. “The product is carefully planned – the way the veneers are reassembled, moulded and sawn creates the pattern,” reveals Karen. This enables rare or endangered veneer species to be reproduced using fast-growing trees, such as poplar, lime wood and ayous, protecting old-growth forests from felling. “We’re now harvesting trees that were planted by the previous generation – it’s an incredibly thoughtful and rewarding process,” she says.

Sharing Alpi’s value for sustainable practices, Elton Group’s foundations are shaded by an inherent understanding of timber-based renewable resources and production processes.

Alpi’s timber mill directly and indirectly employs approximately two thirds of Modigliana’s population, bolstering social and economic sustainability for the town. “There’s a lovely feeling when you visit, because they’re all part of this community,” Karen explains. From the raw logs to the finished product, Alpi offers complete transparency in terms of environmental and social responsibility. Holding licenses for the management of 500,000 hectares of forest, Alpi gives traceability of product from its very origins. Dyes are water-based aniline and adhesives are low formaldehyde urea resin, while an advanced in-house system purifies industrial water.

Elton Group established the brand Eveneer in the 1980s – a showcase of re-cut timber veneers designed in-house and produced by Alpi. The name reflects the even finish of the product in colour, pattern and surface, free from the undesirable splits, knots and discolouration commonly encountered in conventional timber veneers. “We decided there was an opportunity to really go ahead with it – especially for a future with sustainability in mind,” Karen explains. The Eveneer product range is extensive, with colour and grains ranging from Light Oak and Silver Birdseye to deep Umber and Ravenna.


Given the technical production process, it is heartening to consider the many hands that bring the Elton Group’s timber veneers to life.

Alpi also manufactures its own range of re-cut veneers, exclusively represented in Australasia by Elton Group. The Alpi Designer collection comprises artistic timber veneers created in collaboration with world leading designers – such as Piero Lissoni, Campana Brothers, Ettore Sottsass and Patricia Urquiola – and is a testament to the company’s value of design. “The collaborators often design the pattern, then work with Alpi’s technicians to understand how to achieve it – it’s a sort of reverse engineering,” says Karen. Working with the numerous production variables, she says, “the possibilities are endless.”

Starting in the 1980s, each Alpi Designer collection encapsulates the interests and aesthetic sensibilities of the designer, developing a deep bond between the company and the creative industry. The Pointillisme veneer by Atelier Mendini is a true standout. Available in grayscale and vivid colour, the geometric patterning recalls the upholstery of Mendini’s iconic Proust armchair. The latest French Palette collection, launched in 2021 by Piero Lissoni, presents a series of bright and softly-toned timber veneers inspired by the French paintings of the early 1700s – a study in ancient colour interpreted for a contemporary audience. “It’s truly a junction between creativity, technology and nature,” Karen reflects.

The lineage of Elton Group’s manufacturing relationships underscores a profound legacy in the company, nurtured in every aspect of its operations.

With mindfulness of the changing nature of the design industry, Eveneer and Alpi Designer products are available as a pre-finished board. “The skill for polishing veneers is becoming increasingly rare and sought after,” explains Karen. “While we work with some amazingly skilled joiners, there is a rising demand for pre-finished veneers.” Given raw timber veneers darken once polished, the pre-finished samples allow for colour accuracy and confidence in specifying, while providing consistency in finish and considerable savings in time, materials and labour. “It solves a lot of problems we encounter in contemporary cabinet making,” says Karen. The company’s latest Touch finish uses cutting-edge technology to achieve a matte, finger-print free finish that preserves the look of the veneer in its raw state while being completely protected – a unique and irreplicable finish.

At Elton Group’s studio in Melbourne’s south-east, the community-minded nature of the company is palpable. With operations and warehousing below and sales, marketing, sampling and a timber lab above, the company benefits from the close integration of each part of the business. With an area of the warehouse flagged for redevelopment as a showroom, Elton Group is keen to celebrate the legacy of the company and the evolution of its products from factory to finished result. “We’re driven by the concept of being ‘materially different’, in that we’re constantly developing new colours, textures and patterns to inspire design,” explains Karen. Underpinned by the inventive spirit of founder, Michael Elton, Karen suggests her husband’s vision and generosity are very much ingrained in the culture of the company. “The passion Michael had for his craft will always resonate here,” she muses. “His presence is felt in everything we do.”