A New Frontier – Introducing Ensemble

Words by Jackson Hides
Photography by Dave Kulesza & Peter Tarasiuk

Having just last year celebrated 100 years in operation, S&A Stairs has an established legacy within Australia’s architecture, design, and construction space. Now, the company is drawing on its experience and expertise to launch Ensemble, a range of modular ‘wall furniture’.

If S&A represents heritage and building pedigree, Ensemble is the ambitious younger sibling, single-minded in a desire to change the industry. A range of modular joinery that includes bed heads, bookshelves, sideboards, entertainment units and desks, Ensemble proudly posits that it represents a novel concept – wall furniture, which champions set sizing, live pricing and visualisation – in a category where customer experience is often relegated to an afterthought.

It is not only the product itself but the process by which it is designed, selected by customers, made, and installed that is setting Ensemble apart. The brand is able to manufacture and install an Australian-made product in just four weeks, resulting in a considered simplicity for both specifiers and end consumers. With a sophisticated digital platform that allows customers to cost, colourise and specify their selections from the comfort of their home, the company sits proudly at the forefront of modular design solutions. This allows Ensemble to keep costs down, as it ensures the design is consistent and installation easy. The range itself centres on a suite of internationally recognised patents pertaining to a unique timber join, made possible thanks to the five-axis CNC technology that S&A Stairs first invested in in the 1990s.

“If S&A represents heritage and building pedigree, Ensemble is the ambitious younger sibling, single-minded in a desire to change the industry.”

With a passion for Australian manufacturing, Ensemble is disrupting the cabinet-making industry thanks to its lead times and live quoting.

For Ensemble General Manager Nick Acquroff, a member of the fourth generation of the founding Acquroff family to work in the S&A business, Ensemble is a thoroughly modern solution to what are age-old client building concerns. “It’s always been hard for customers to visualise what they are getting. Especially in the joinery space. A cabinet maker comes back with a quote, weeks later – that holds up the job,” Nick explains. “With Ensemble, we want customers to choose, style, visualise and order all in one place, at one time.”

However, with that in mind, Nick is certainly not throwing out the rule book with Ensemble, which leans on the wealth of experience and deep-seated values at its disposal. This rings true for pragmatic business decisions, such as the importance of the brand remaining 100 percent Australian made and supporting local manufacturing, and to more emotional ones, such as looking to family for brand values and inspiration. “There’s never been a time where making, designing and sourcing products in Australia has been more important,” he tells. “We use materials from local suppliers that we love. People who know how we live in Australia. These people are the bedrock of what Australian made is all about. And we want to celebrate that.”

Nick reflects that it is a privilege to create a piece that is going to spend its life in someone’s home, bearing witness to moments around the dinner table with loved ones and Sunday mornings lounging about in the living room. In Ensemble, he wants customers to associate those feelings when they purchase a piece or think of the brand. “Ensemble is the most beautiful word. In Australian English, it means ‘a group of items viewed as a whole rather than individually.’ And it’s true in so many ways. We have this written on our wall – all the people, all of the time, all together. That’s what we’re trying to do. Help people to create those houses we all love growing up in, entertaining in and spending our lives in.”

The team behind the innovative Ensemble collection of wall furniture.

The considered and smooth supply chain that Ensemble bases its business on crystalises this ambition in the real world. As global supply networks continue to feel the ramifications of the events of the past 18 months, Ensemble’s modularity and local manufacturing means that the business can deliver made-to-order products, fully installed in just four weeks. It is this sort of competitive advantage that Nick suggests sets Ensemble apart from its competitors. “Instead of waiting 12 weeks for something to hit the shipping container somewhere in the world, we call our friends from down the street – quite literally, in a few cases – and have everything we need on hand in a matter of days.”

When asked where Ensemble’s inspiration comes from, Nick explains it is the opportunity to contribute to the ongoing story of Australian manufacturing. “We love all of the makers in Australia. Those who – against the winds of globalisation – decided to make something at home. We want to champion furniture designed and made here.” As a business that is at once leaning off its fourth-generation knowhow, whilst simultaneously disrupting the sector with transparent pricing, unrivalled delivery times and complete customisation, Ensemble sits poised to capitalise on contemporary consumer demands, ensuring there is still a place for Australian-made furniture in the global age.