75 Years of Stegbar: A Retrospective
For our 75th anniversary, we look back at the timeline, trends and innovations that have cemented Stegbar as one of Australia’s most trusted brands and building manufacturers.
The early years of Stegbar
Stegbar began operating in 1946 when entrepreneurs Brian Stegley and George Barrow put their heads (and names) together to produce office furniture and cases for grandfather clocks. By the early 1950s, Brian was solely overseeing the operation, which had expanded to include the manufacturing of modular timber window awnings from its Melbourne headquarters.
During these early years, as a generation of people returned home from war, the image of an ‘Australian dream’ emerged. New families moved to the suburbs to either buy or build their dream home – and Stegbar was up to the job of supplying the materials to make that dream a reality.
Supplying the post-war building boom
A major housing boom followed the end of World War II, a time of rationing and austerity. During the 1950s, over a third of all new houses in Australia were owner-built, and by 1960 the rate of home ownership had risen to over 70 per cent.
Modern design emerged around this time, as did (what we now call) ‘mid-century’ architectural touches. Features like open-plan layouts became popular, along with sleek, minimal lines, a connection between the home and the outdoors, and the uninterrupted views that came from floor-to-ceiling windows.
When it came to letting light into these new homes, Stegbar was perfectly suited to the task. And there was one major figure in Australian architecture who would help us craft our new calling card.
A window to architectural innovation
Robin Boyd, one of Australia’s preeminent architectural thinkers, teamed up with Stegbar in the 1950s to realise his vision of a wall of windows – a concept that would not only fill a home with light, but balance the freedom and privacy this new generation of homeowners sought.
The windowall, as it became known, was a prefabricated, structural framing system that became an intrinsic look of suburban homes and 1950s Australia.
“Stegbar has always worked with builders and architects to solve construction problems,” says Stegbar Vice President Scott Kelly. “We listen to Australian architects and embrace their vision for innovation in our product design process.”
When you consider how, before WWII, Australian homes were often colonial-style cottages, the full influence of Robin Boyd’s modernist approach comes into view.
Now an iconic and enduring architectural feature of Robin Boyd’s designs – and post-war modernist homes more broadly – the Stegbar windowall was first installed in a family home in the Melbourne suburb of Beaumaris. This home served as a test case for how the design could be prefabricated and replicated en masse.
Stegbar’s relationship with the prominent Australian architect extended beyond just our patented windowall when he designed our growing company’s new headquarters in Springvale in 1957.
But perhaps the property that best captures Robin Boyd’s architectural aims – which he described in his book Living in Australia as the “conflict between the opposed desires of privacy and freedom, between the cell and the great hall, both of which we all need to be able to experience, on our own terms, at our own timing” – was the Ivanhoe home he designed for industrial designers Grant and Mary Featherston in 1969.
A connected series of vertical platforms illuminated by one towering windowall, the Featherston house represented an ideal lifestyle for the architect, one where a professional couple and their family could live, work and play all under one roof. For all his forward-thinking, not even Robin Boyd could predict how accurate that way of life would be for Australians in the 21st century.
A changing business meets a changing Australia
When many Australians began working from home during and after 2020, our relationships to our physical and emotional spaces became even more important. And Stegbar has been there to meet the changing needs of its customers.
“We have worked hard to provide products that increase comfort and positively affect how people feel in their home,” says Scott Kelly, Stegbar’s VP. “Whether that’s our Galleria wardrobe series, which not only is aesthetically pleasing, but also helps provide storage solutions; or our Alumiere window and door collection, which provides larger openings, letting in light to enhance that open feel.”
This was just the latest in a 75-year tradition of evolving alongside the needs of our customers. In past decades, we did this by, for example, innovating our offering of ‘patio doors’ – also known as bifold and stacking doors. “Bringing the outdoors in, outdoor living and alfresco areas have been some of the biggest trends in modern home design,” Scott explains.
Staying ahead and holding onto trust
The building industry and the needs of our customers are worlds away from what they were 75 years ago, but Stegbar has always been a business that embraces change.
“As Australian tastes and trends evolve, we are focussed on providing more options and abilities to customise, so the outcome and end product is really a reflection of the individual,” Scott says.
It’s not only the way Stegbar homes look that’s important to us: environmental impact and the relationship between our homes and climate is fundamental to our innovation. With a strong push towards zero emissions, Stegbar’s research and development team always has energy efficiency top-of-mind when designing products. It’s because we understand the relationship light and ventilation have on the wellbeing and health of the families inside a home.
That’s who we work for: the Australian people, whether they’re homeowners, builders, or our friends in the building and construction industries. They want brands they can trust for the long term. And after 75 years of manufacturing quality products and prioritising craftsmanship, we know we fit the bill. Here’s to another 75.
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