Q&A with Kate Small, bespoke furniture designer

kate small

We chat to Kate Small, an award-winning furniture designer and business owner based in Deniliquin, about starting small, building community and supporting Australian designers.


What first inspired you to get into furniture design?

From a very young age I loved creating things, whether it was drawing or making puzzles and building Lego. When I finished school, I studied Architecture and then graphic design due to my love for designing but once completed I decided I wanted to do something more hands on which led me to a Sturt School for Wood. I completed a one-year fulltime course in furniture making and have never looked back.

What types of pieces do you produce in your workshop?

I create large pieces including dining tables, bathroom vanities and desks through to smaller pieces – cheese knives, salad servers and serving boards.


A bathroom vanity by Kate Small Design. Image: supplied.


What is the process from commission to finished product?

Generally, customers approach me about a specific piece they’re wanting. We’ll then run through different design ideas often spending time looking through photos of similar commissioned pieces. We usually have a few meetings to finalise the design and agree on fine details. Once the design is complete, we’ll move onto timber selection where I try to encourage my customers to use Australian species as there are so many beautiful options. I will then get started on the piece which involves cutting, shaping, joining and finishing. My favourite stage is delivering the piece and being able to see it in its new place.

Can you tell us about your shop, Small Trading Co? Why is it important to you to support Australian makers?

Small Trading Co is a homewares store established in early December 2021. The store operates in conjunction with Kate Small Design my bespoke furniture making business. When establishing Small Trading Co, I wanted to offer my regional community the opportunity to buy high quality Australian designed products. It’s important to me as a maker to support other Australian designers and makers. Whilst I source products from around Australia I also stock locally made products and artworks. I have made so many new friendships and established connections across my community working with and supporting local makers and artists.


Kate’s store Small Trading Co stocks incredible, colourful pieces by Australian designers and makers. Image: supplied.


What were some of the biggest challenges in starting your own business?

Establishing a unique bespoke furniture making business in regional Australia was very daunting. My approach was to start off small and build the business as my reputation grew. I also regularly set small but achievable targets and goals for my business. I am very fortunate to be able to say that my business has exceeded all targets and goals set to date.

Establishing a retail and manufacturing business in a small rural community can be difficult. There is often the perception of the need to go out of town to shop and it can be difficult to compete with businesses selling cheaper imported products. My focus when establishing Small Trading Co 2 years ago was to stock the shop with Australian designed quality homewares and children’s wear. In doing this I wanted to showcase the talent and quality of Australian designed and made and encourage people to shop locally.

What has been your proudest moment?

Last year I was fortunate enough to win Outstanding Start up at the regional business awards which took me all the way to the state business awards. It was incredible to have the opportunity to meet other business owners and have the chance to reflect as a business owner on where I would like my business to head and the importance of giving back.


A dining table by Kate Small Design. Image: supplied.


What is one of your favourite pieces to create?

A dining table for a few reasons. One being the challenge of creating a large piece but mostly because I love thinking about the memories that will be made around it. The birthday celebrations, the anniversaries, the family catch ups, even just the simple family dinners.

What is the importance of community to you and your business?

Community is everything as a business owner. I feel so fortunate to live in such a supportive community. Deniliquin is a great place to live and work. In late 2022 Deniliquin and region was impacted by a major flood event. With only 48 hours’ notice I had to relocate my homewares business and close the furniture making workshop as my shed is in the town flood zone. I could not have done this without the assistance of family, friends and dozens of community members who pitched in to sandbag, move stock and lift timber and equipment up. I will never forget this. It was very humbling.

It’s very important to me to build relationships with not only customers but also other local businesses. I buy local and regional whenever I can. Some of my best customers are other local business owners. I buy from them and they buy from me!


Kate’s store Small Trading Co stocks homewares, art and pieces by Australian designers and makers (dog not for sale). Image: supplied.


Where is your favourite place to travel to in Australia?

Pambula Beach – the Sapphire Coast region has so much to offer with incredible food and stunning beaches. One of my favourite towns is Pambula. It has a lot to offer as a small town with clever local makers, great eating places, a famous bakery and brewery. I spent a week there between Christmas and New Year exploring shops and talking to small business owners. I was speaking to a new business owner that’s opened a very unique store and we both agreed Pambula has a lot of soul.

For more interviews with amazing Australian designers like Kate Small, head to our Aussie Stars page!

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