STEPHANIE Di MASCIO’S passion for interior design has grown alongside the family owned business founded by her uncle, Frank Laureti, in 1995. She has watched as Café Lighting and Living grew from a lighting wholesale business which occupied the ground floor of two large warehouses, into a business that now offers an extensive and ever growing range of fine furniture, decor and accessories.
Di Mascio is now the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for Café Lighting and Living. “Actually I started when I was 16 and then went off and did my own thing and returned in a full-time capacity,” she says. “I branched into the graphics and marketing side of the company after I studied interior design and graphic design.” Her innate understanding of interior design and the visual impact that well styled settings can have on a client’s emotional experience and attachment to what they touch and feel has driven growth to the business and helped clients to understand the value of styling over merchandising.
Café Lighting and Living introduced an interior styling service in 2014 after the team noticed an increase in the number of clients who asked for advice on how to merchandise display settings and furnish rooms. The main focus of the service is to assist clients with selecting the right combination of pieces to suit a room and fit in with their lifestyle. “The collections offer a wide variety of statement pieces but you wouldn’t necessarily put five statement pieces into a room,” Di Mascio says.
The Online Lookbook evolved from Di Mascio’s understanding of the highly visual nature of the business and of the need to integrate the sheer number of furniture, lighting and homewares available into manageable concepts for clients. She hopes to increase the regularity of photo shoots from biannual to seasonal in order to better represent the new product that constantly arrives from suppliers.
“We have a lot of collections that we love to showcase in different manners and I knew that, in terms of showing product with the Online Lookbook, that would be another way to broadcast how to put together our products and how to showcase them,” she says. Often, retail clients replicate the settings in their own showrooms to help buyers to make the right choice for their homes. Di Mascio says the company’s clients “do a fantastic job in terms of styling the product to show them off in the best way that they can.”
With an in-house team of five qualified interior designers who are all very passionate about design, Di Mascio says “we all bring to the table a unique position in terms of how we go about the interiors.” Each trade show presents an opportunity to engage new visitors to their stand and reacquaint existing clients with new collections. The design and styling team take the same approach to these highlight events as they do to each new collection’s lookbook. Everything is considered from the branding to the overall look of the stand, colours, products and the final collection of pieces which are arranged “in a real life scenario”.
Each year Laureti and his wife Wendy, who joined the company in the late 1990’s during its first growth era, visit international furniture design and trade fairs in Europe and Asia. They travel the world to discover the latest trends and source new product to complement and enhance their existing collections. “Frank always wanted to start his own business and so he got into lighting and that was it,” Di Mascio says. He developed his technical knowledge of lighting along the way and built the company into a wholesale business that counts major retail chains amongst its many clients
Café Lighting and Living now employs more than 30 staff across its Sydney headquarters and flagship showroom, and the Melbourne showroom. The launch of the Melbourne showroom in 2004 aligned with the business’s expansion into fine furniture and concept collections which was introduced to complement the lighting side of the business.
Di Mascio says the majority of pieces they supply are designed. “Our buyers and designers will go to a trade fair in China, they’ll see a piece they like and they will tweak it to make it our product or they’ll source an image of what they like and go to a fair and meet with a supplier or discuss it online. The supplier will present something and they will draw it from scratch or change a mould they already have. It does take quite a bit of time.” Tweaking the design of homewares can take up to three months or more. “We get a sample in and approve the sample or change it or we cancel it altogether. The overall process for a new product to come in can take six to 12 months.”
Several lighting suppliers are very flexible and will also change designs to suit the brief. The buyers travel regularly too. “They are always overseas with suppliers making sure of the quality,” she says.
For upholstered furniture such as lounges, ottomans and occasional chairs, the selection of fabrics and finishing details need to be considered as each piece arrives into the warehouse pre-upholstered. “We introduced natural linens and black linens about three years ago and it has been trial and error in terms of what the public are buying from us and what wholesalers are buying from us,” Di Mascio says. Feedback from clients and apparent sales make clear which designs the customers like and this naturally informs the business about future directions to take. There is a need to strike a balance between retaining what you know appeals to clients and ensuring the range maintains a fresh and on trend appeal.
The trend for metallics and marble in interiors sits alongside lush velvet upholstery which features in the Adventures In Wonderland collection and linens which feature in several collections including Vintage Havana and Ebony and Ivory.
“We really do have a passion for interiors here. We import furniture with an interest in the market. We travel world-wide to get the trends and bring something new and we try to bring the best customer services with us as well,” Di Mascio says. “Our main aim is to bring current trends from overseas to Australia.”
Café Lighting and Living are preparing a major launch of new fine furniture, lighting and accessories at their stand at Decor + Design in July as they also celebrate another milestone of 21years in business.