In this issue we take a look back at one of the industry’s true Icons – Noel Kiely. He is without a doubt a maverick and a true individual of the flooring business who through the decades turned the flooring industry on its head and has left an indelible mark. This pictorial history is a testament to his hard work and determination. In his own words, Noel talks about his working life…
My work life began in the way many of my generation did by selecting a trade. I started as an apprentice Coppersmith at A E Atherton in Latrobe St Melbourne. I won the Beasley Award for “Apprentice of the Year” but Coppersmithing wasn’t my scene.
I started a buy & sell business (via Bourke Appliances) to work colleagues, friends & family &. built up such a good business that Bourkes employed me. That’s when I was drawn to the carpet /flooring industry and about four years later decided to start my own business Doncaster Furnishers in East Doncaster. I opened for business on the day our currency changed from pounds to dollars which is now 52 years ago.
My main interest was carpets even though we had a wonderful furniture business selling top quality locally made and imported furniture. The Scandinavian look was the look at that time.
In 1972 I went to the UK where I found a sample of Berber Rusticana in the famous Conran shop Heals in Tottenham Court Rd a wonderful designer shop.
I had seen a sample of a similar type of natural wool carpet at The Australian Wool Corporation in Melbourne so was very excited to find the Rusticana sample at Heals. I immediately contacted the manufacturer in Lancashire, became the Australian Agent & so began the company we called Berber Carpets International the forerunner to Halcyon Lake.
The Berber carpet became so successful that we began to wholesale to other quality retailers.
Our collection grew year by year and we traveled to the trade fairs in Europe and the UK twice a year to keep up with the best available products for our clientele which was mainly architects, designers and high quality retailers.
Once we had our suppliers in place we decided to take a collection of rugs & carpets to photograph on location in Morocco for promotion and advertising. We engaged photographer Jo Daniel who also had experienced working in Morocco. We traveled from Fez to quite a way into the Sahara desert back up to Maracech & Agadir. Of course there were a few hairy moments in those early days before the tourist industry became more prevalent. The result was the most wonderful and creative collection of photographs and images that were used for years.
We did manufacture for some time but that was not such a good idea.
We had a wholesale showroom in Carlton and in late 80’s the lovely Victorian Building designed by Charles Webb the architect of the Windsor Hotel became available. It had started life as a clothing factory. We took that building and engaged the interior designer & shop fitter Tas Phelan who did a brilliant job of converting the space to the best wholesale showroom of world class showing our wonderful collection of carpets and rugs from many countries.
Then the recession of the early 1990’s – a difficult time for many businesses. We were grateful for our loyal clients who used and continued to specify our products.
I have always strongly believed In marketing and presentation and this was necessary to keep our company at the forefront of carpets and rugs.
I also took inspiration from a Danish retailer Mr Jorn Jensen of Copenhagen who at one stage was the largest retailer of carpets and rugs in Europe. We remain good friends to this day.
As with any successful business enterprise it requires hard work, commitment, knowledge of product, selecting the right product, presentation, marketing & advertising and enthusiasm.
David Kiely is now managing director and running Halcyon Lake and doing a wonderful job in this changing world. David grew up in the business so has an instinctive and knowledgeable understanding of the carpet & rug industry.