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Housing : March 2009
In the current economic climate it’s refreshing to come across someone confident about the outlook. John Dodds reports. a positiveoutlook V in Robson, the proprietor of Da Vinci Designs in Queensland, is very upbeat about his future. ‘I cannot remember in 30 years coming back to such a fantastic start to the year,’ he says. ‘I don’t know about everybody else, but we’re very busy.’ Da Vinci Designs manufactures and installs luxury custom cabinetry throughout Australia. The company specialises in kitchens, wardrobes and vanities. An important part of its business is the import of fully assembled custom-designed kitchen cabinetry from Germany. The signature brand names are Poggenpohl and Rational. ‘I won’t say it has been good management so much as luck. When I was offered the Queensland and Northern NSW franchise for Poggenpohl and Rational kitchens a few years ago the industry was already demanding much higher quality and eco-friendly products. ‘People are now looking for recognisable international brands.’ The origin of the company’s name is a story in itself, and reflects a happy accident. ‘I was in Germany 20-odd years ago when I saw an article on Leonardo Da Vinci. I wondered if I could get the Da Vinci name, partly because it incorporated my own. By a stroke of luck, the Da Vinci clothing company had just ceased trading and the name had been deregistered. So I snapped it up.’ Da Vinci’s market is roughly evenly divided between new houses and major renovations Vin migrated from Yorkshire to South Australia and operated his own marine dealership there before moving to Queensland in 1979, to work in marine building. ‘I did that for a year before I was offered a small business making pine bathroom accessories and bought it. ‘We were next door to a cabinetmaker, and I used to go in there and watch what he was doing. (Vin was not himself a tradesman.) ‘My business employed four or five young people from the Endeavour Foundation. I had them making pine bath rails, towel rings – those sorts of things. We marketed all over Australia under the brand name Opas, with Myers being a major stockist. ‘From there, because I’d learned so much from the joiner next door, I had a company called the Bar Factory, manufacturing bars for kitchens and associated products. ‘Then I discovered I had a bit of a flair for design and doing things differently. Back then, cabinetmakers tended to wear thongs and stubby shorts, and had pencils behind their ears. My earlier years in the motor and Photos courtesy of Da Vinci Designs 40 HOUSING MARCH 2009