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5 Decades, 5 Hits : A Playlist for 50 Years in Design

This year, Schiavello celebrates 50 years in design. A truly homegrown success story, IndesignLive is proud to present Schiavello: 5 decades in 5 songs.

  • Raffaele Tigani, General Manager of Schiavello International, presents the $5,000 prize and trophy to Tenille Teakle, Janie Green, Soo Bhin Han and Emily Marsh Russel from Woods Bagot, Perth.


Earlier this month, Schiavello hosted QUITE the party in Sydney at the stylish Dolton House.

To celebrate 50 years of design prowess, they asked the design community to imagine what our work lives would be by 2030. The experiment asked for A+D to reithink design practice, embrace originality, the forces of change and how technology will impact these spaces.

The winning design by Woods Bagot Perth focused on human needs, was responsive to constant change, recognised the importance of relationships and considered organic spaces within buildings. Raffaele Tigani, General Manager of Schiavello International, presented the $5,000 prize and trophy to Tenille Teakle, Janie Green, Soo Bhin Han and Emily Marsh Russel from Woods Bagot (pictured above).

Over 350 lucky guests partied the night away. A roaming saxophonist riffed to the stellar playlist of contemporary hits and classic gems. But, it made me think about just how far the company – not to mention the A+D community – has progressed in Schiavello’s contribution to Australia’s design history.

As such, I am proud to present the following ‘article’.



5 Decades, 5 Hits : A Playlist for 50 Years in Design




These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do /
Are you ready, boots? / Start walkin’.


In 1966 Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots are Made for Walkin’ reached the top of the charts in the USA, Great Britain and Australia – all in the same week. The week before, however, marks a comparably significant milestone for the A+D community on our shores.

The week before Nancy wiggled to a doo-wop-cum-country-cum-pop-rock beat (patent Chelsea boots hot off Carnaby Street in tow), that is, Tony Schiavello registered a company under TT&G as a partnership with his brother Joe and Tony Cipollone. Two years later Schiavello Bros Pty Ltd is established – today the Schiavello Group celebrates 50 years of design.

Throughout this first decade, Schiavello ushered in the early development of a demountable partitioning system that would dominate the commercial design market for years to come. Their MK1 celebrated the necessity for modification and flexibility in the workplace – a virtue that ended up landing the fledgling company a large-scale contract for partition works at Victoria Insurance in Melbourne, followed by a larger-still contract for a major government project for Telecom.

Off the back of this sudden spring in Schiavello’s specification in the local market, the brothers were forced to move into larger operational facilities only two years after opening their doors.



Now here you go again, you say / You want your freedom /
Well who am I to keep you down / It’s only right that you should /
Play the way you feel it


Jumping forward a decade, Tony Schiavello and his 13-year old son Peter return to Melbourne after attending the world-leading machinery trade fair Ligna. Meanwhile, Fleetwood Mac releases Rumours – their 11th studio album – to mass critical acclaim across Australia. Funnily, Stevie Nicks and international commercial designers alike were extolling the same desires: the struggle for increased freedoms, the loosening of formalities and old conventions. Suddenly, freedom of movement and flexibility had never been so hot-topic – and especially so in workspaces across the nation.

Rolling out a suite of foldable desk collections (Series 35 and 45) in 1978, followed by the first ergonomic height-adjustable desking systems (Primatic) in 1982, Schiavello proved that design thinking and design demand held enormous sway across Australia. While computers continued to penetrate further into our workspaces, Schiavello launched its first workstation in 1985: the Interstat. Combining the company’s partitioning and furniture expertise, Schiavello introduced a new element into our scope for responding to questions of privacy, concentration and flexibility in our working needs.



Hey pretty baby with the high heels on / You give me fever /
Like I’ve never, ever known / You’re just a product of loveliness


Orgatec! In 1986, Schiavello exhibited for the first time in Cologne – showcasing Interstat and its leading-edge hidden cable management system for newly hi-tech offices worldwide. Marking the beginning of a mass rollout for the system throughout Australia, Schiavello responded to the increasing demand for innovative commercial design products by expanding throughout the nation. By 1993, the company opened doors in NSW, QLD, VIC, WA and SA – a truly nation-wide holistic brand service.

Simultaneously, however, the company continued to make in-roads on the international scene as well. With a growing portfolio of quality designs exhibited at key international fairs, Schiavello gained their first international export project in Bahrain during 1988. Four years later, the international love for the Schiavello portfolio took the company to the USA – installing 20,000+ workstations and over 50,000+ commercial designs at the Head Quarters of the World Bank in Washington DC. “[P]roduct of loveliness”? M.J. called it!



Slam it to the left  / If you’re havin’ a good time  /
Shake it to the right  / If ya know that you feel fine


Winning contracts in more than 30 countries stretching from France to Thailand, the United Arab Emirates to Singapore, Schiavello continued to expand their design offering across all aspects of furnishings, fitouts and interior construction. Now welcoming bathroom-ware, lighting, panelling and joinery to the fold, the company forged significant creative partnerships with both local and international designers including Helen Kontouris, Mari Funaki and Mario Bellini among others throughout the late 90s and well into the 2000s. Proving to remain a stalwart mover-and-shaker for years to come, Schiavello’s commitment to further engaging workplace R+D facilitated several key publications the industry consults to this day.

The Spice Girls were certainly right about one thing: branding. In 1996, they released Spice Up Your Life – a pronounced reminder that the creative community toward the end of the millennium would have to align the creator and the creation into one, compact, market-ready commodity. Internet penetration, global economies, and the ebullient international economic climate of the late 90s and early 2000s radically transformed the A+D community and marketplace simultaneously. Recognising that branding would become an enormous part of the global design world, Schiavello responded to the demand with inspired action: opening a new signage and merchandising division that could cater to the increasing demand for the design world to co-operate with promotional initiatives. Supplying innovative solutions to the Commonwealth Games, Bendigo Bank, and Virgin Blue, Schiavello moved from success to success throughout the new millennium.



Drop it like it’s hot  / Drop it like it’s hot /
Drop it like it’s hot


While Schiavello’s interest in property development continued to take the company from strength-to-strength throughout the late 2000s, they simultaneously released Climate – a revolutionary workplace design that changed our professional lives in a very, very dramatic way. Able to re-mould and modify to ever-changing requirements, Climate proved extremely popular in workplaces across the world, standing for an absolute perfect synthesis of every single one of Schiavello’s planning configurations for the previous 3 decades.

At the beginning of the decade, Snoop Dogg said “[a]in’t no other way to play the game” in Drop It Like It’s Hot. Serving as a catchcry for the decade’s ethos, much of the sentiment was echoed throughout the A+D industry. People became a rule – a law for our design needs – and the “only way to play the game” was to collectively turn back to humanism and cherish the value of wellbeing, physical and psychological welfare, and embrace the way in which design was uniquely positioned to respond to the pressing demand of health, safety and happiness across all aspects of the stakeholder community. In 2014, Schiavello understood this charge for A+D, producing over 100 shipping containers of furniture and utilities for clinical and public spaces within the Cleveland Clinic Hospital in Abu Dhabi.

At the end of 2016 and looking forward to the years ahead, Schiavello continues to embrace the winds of change. Now with outposts in Malaysia and China, the company continues to evolve alongside Asia Pacific and its growing need for thoughtful design.


Indesign wishes to congratulate Schiavello on 50 years of design. And, we look forward to 50 more!

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