FLER Furniture: A Journey of Two Friends

FLER Adveritising Brochure - Photo by Bambery Trading Ltd.

Before they became one of the most sought-after brands for modern furniture, Fler was a small business run by two Jewish migrants.

Escaping from Nazi Europe, Fred Lowen and Ernest Rodeck arrived in Australia on the prison ship Dunera in September 1940. They both ended up in the Tatura Internment Camp in 1941, where the friendship between the two Dunera boys began.

Lowen was released in 1942, and he began working as a fitter and turner. Despite possessing little knowledge of timber, he eventually began selling his hand-turned wooden bowls, platters, and other tableware to gift shops. Meanwhile, Rodeck was making pencil propellers.

Founded in 1946, their little business was located in a two-horse stable in Richmond, Melbourne. Combining their initials, they gave their business the name Fler.

Thriving with Sleek Modern Design

With the encouragement of Fred Ward, a designer from Myer Emporium, Lowen began to design spindle leg dining chairs. The furniture Fler began to manufacture leaned towards the modern styles that have begun to influence Australian homes and decor after the Second World War. Fler furniture possessed sleek, clean lines that made it perfect for modern, light, and open interiors. Fler and other modern design furniture gradually took the limelight from the cumbersome and dark English style furniture.

FLER Adveritising Brochure c. 1950S – Photo by Monica Lee

Fler made their furniture with Australian timber and was heavily influenced by Scandinavian styles. Despite being produced in large quantities, each piece had a bespoke, handcrafted aesthetic that helped make it one of the most popular furniture brands. By the 1960s, almost every Australian state had a Fler factory.

Aside from its unique design and superb craftsmanship, Fler’s growth was also spurred on by the team up with Robin Boyd. Boyd chose Fler to work with him on a house building project in 1958. This collaboration led to the first-ever Fler-designed home. The home continues to stand in Blackburn even to this day.

A few of their designs were also featured in the Australian Pavilion at the Montreal Expo in 1967. Their furniture stood alongside those of other prominent Australian designers, like the talking chairs designed by husband and wife team Grant and Mary Featherston.

The Fler Aesthetic

Like its contemporaries, Fler furniture is known for light, simplistic, and modern designs. Among the string of furniture ranges they have released, the SC55 and SC58 armchairs and the Narvik lounge and dining range were the most popular.

The SC55 and SC58 armchairs were designed between 1955-1958, while the Narvik range was released in 1961. The armchairs and the Narvik range remain classic examples of Fler’s aesthetic up to this day.

SC55 and SC58 Armchairs

SC55 Armchair – Photo by Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences

These armchairs were released between 1955-1958. Made from solid timber, such as mahogany, these armchairs were highly organic and with their clean lines helped cement Fler’s reputation as a leading contemporary design furniture brand. It was a reflection of the forward-focused, post-war optimism of the time. The SC55 and SC58 armchairs were an example of the Scandi-Pacific style with their refined and slender lines and boomerang style curves. The SC55 Rocket armchair can be said to be one of the most popular from this series. This chair with its surfboard style armrests continues to be a sought-after piece of furniture. It is quite the collector’s item among mid-century furniture aficionados and Fler furniture fans.

Narvik Daybed Sofa and Armchair

Narvik Daybed Sofa – Photo by DOGS REPUBLIC – 20th Century Design

The Narvik dining and lounge ranges were among Fler’s popular furniture lines. Released in 1961, each piece is an example of the sleek Scandinavian aesthetic. The sofa daybed is a finely crafted sofa with an aerodynamic frame, sculpted from mahogany with a rattan weave backrest and comfortable woolen upholstery. It’s a 20th century classic with its light form, sophisticated hook-end uprights and Concord style armrests. This Narvik sofa folds into a daybed as well, making it perfect for sneaking in a mid-afternoon nap.

The Narvik armchair possesses a frame similar to that of the sofa, sculpted mahogany frame with aerodynamic curves. It is an iconic 20th-century piece of light furniture with concord style armrests and stylish hook-end uprights.

Fler Mahogany Dining Table

Fler 6-8 Seater Mahogany Dining Table – Photo by Mr. Bigglesworthy – Mid Century Modern and Designer Retro Furniture

This ribbon-grained mahogany table makes for an ideal dining experience. Its linear tabletop has a soft curve with solid mahogany ends. This table can easily accommodate four but can be extended to seat up to eight people.



Fler 64 Dining Chairs

Fler 64 Dining Chair – Photo by DOGS REPUBLIC – 20th Century Design

Part of Lowen’s Series 64, these dining chairs come in teak and mahogany. The chairs’ back rail is sculpted from mahogany or teak, creating a refined light form. These stylish chairs are also comfortable and a perfect addition to a contemporary home.



Fler Revival and Restoration

The growing interest in mid-century furniture has allowed Fler furniture back into the spotlight, together with other contemporary designed furniture. Fler pieces are being sought out from antique sellers and restorers. Most pieces are often sold out, and any who wish to purchase may have to wait or send in an early request for the items.

Fler furniture is also carried by New Zealand brands like Broadhead Bros and DON Furniture. There are also companies that offer to reupholster and restore Fler pieces to their original condition. One such company is Fler Furniture Reupholstery. The company is run by the employees who made original Fler furniture at the Rooks Road Vermont Factory from 1980 to 1996. They have the original Fler patterns as well as a vast collection of the best fabrics, leathers, and vinyl. With the patterns, materials, and knowledge of ex-Fler employees, the restoration of one’s favourite Fler furniture is guaranteed. That cherished armchair or sofa would look as though it was newly manufactured after Fler Furniture Reupholstery has done their magic.

The Fler Legacy

A Fler lounge setting – Photo by National Library of Australia

When Fred Lowen and Ernest Rodeck first came to Australia and started their business, the two Jewish men may not have imagined how much impact they would have in Australian furniture design. From a two-horse stable workshop to multiple factories to the revival and restoration of their furniture line, Fler has definitely come far. Who would have thought that a migrant fleeing Nazi Europe, with little knowledge of wood, would become one of Australia’s most prominent designers of the 20th century?

As people are becoming more interested in finely crafted furniture, mid-century pieces like that of Parker, Boyd, and Lowen are regaining the spotlight. With Fler’s sleek Scandinavian designs, these furniture pieces are not only gaining cult status but make for practical yet stylish home furnishings. Fler pieces are flying off shelves and companies that carry them have their stocks sold out which may mean that the superbly crafted furniture is being sought after by not only mid-century aficionados but also by pretty much anyone who has been awed by the level of craftsmanship and modern aesthetic of these pieces.

Fler’s most popular designs, with their sleek lines and light forms, not only make for a stylish choice for home furnishing but a practical one as well. They are exquisite, beautifully crafted, comfortable pieces that can easily complement any modern room. Fler furniture was designed to be aesthetically pleasing and comfortable. Sleek, simple and significant are perhaps a few words that could describe Fler furniture. And because it is sought after even to this day, Fler furniture could also be described as timeless.