Local Faces: Stephen McCaffrey from Furniture Designs, Old Bawn Road

By Aideen O'Flaherty

BUSINESS is in the blood for Stephen McCaffrey, who spent his childhood helping out in his father’s furniture shop, Furniture Designs, which has taken pride of place on the Old Bawn Road in Tallaght since 1979. In May 1980 an advertisement for Furniture Designs appeared on the front page of the fisrt edtion of The Echo.

The shop was set up by Stephen’s father, Hugh McCaffrey, when Tallaght was a small but growing town, as South Dublin didn’t have a furniture shop at the time, and Hugh had a wealth of experience from working in similar shops prior to opening up Furniture Designs.

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Stephen McCaffrey (Image: Aidan O’Neill)

Stephen was born shortly after his father opened up the shop, and found he had a natural affinity for business as he grew up helping out in the shop.

“I was helping out in the shop since I could lift a cushion!” Stephen told The Echo. “Everyone talks about a work/life balance now, but when I was in school, once I was finished my homework, I helped in the shop.

“It was normal for me, when I was growing up, to be helping out in the shop while my friends would be out playing.”

Working in the family business solidified Stephen’s desire to one day manage the shop, and while his brother, Peter, became the manager of the shop after their father passed away in 1993, it wasn’t long before Stephen was at the helm.

The past pupil of Firhouse Community College took up the mantle from his brother in the early 2000s, after earning a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from IT Tallaght.

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“I was always interested in business and always will be,” Stephen explained. “I’ve always been interested in how businesses are run, and facts and figures.”

After four decades in business, customers’ trust in Furniture Designs is still going strong, with many returning customers and different generations of the same families kitting out their houses with furniture from the shop.

However, an aspect of the industry that Stephen has seen changing is the increased frequency with which people change their furniture, compared to the early days of the shop – but this also presented an opportunity for the business to partner with a charity for a free furniture disposal initiative.

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Stephen McCaffrey (Image: Aidan O’Neill)

“People are changing their interiors quicker now,” he said. “Our parents would’ve bought furniture that they would use for 20 years or so, but now it’s all about trends.

“We had some of our customers who were bringing back their old pieces of furniture, which they kept looking spectacularly well, that they wanted to pass on to some of their younger relatives, but they didn’t necessarily want it, and the customers didn’t want to just dispose of it.

“We partnered with NCBI (National Council for the Blind Ireland) so we could pass on our customers’ old items, like old sofas, to the charity for their shops.

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Stephen McCaffrey (Image: Aidan O’Neill)

“The customers were happy with it, and they knew the furniture would be going to a worthy home.”

Customers are, of course, at the centre of the business, and Stephen and the three other staff in Furniture Designs enjoy helping their customers.

“Sometimes we get young couples starting out,” Stephen said, when asked about the most enjoyable aspect of his job, “and you can see the excitement on their faces – the furniture is the last piece of the jigsaw for their new home.

“You can see that they’re ready to start their new life in their new home.”

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Stephen McCaffrey (Image: Aidan O’Neill)

A key part of the business in recent years has been Furniture Designs’ online shop, and they’re keen to keep their customers well informed about the products they offer, which they can purchase through the website, or research before they’ve even walked into the physical shop.

“People already know what they want to buy before they even think about leaving their house,” Stephen added. “People have their homework done before they even come through the door, so the clearer your online presence is, the better.”

Looking ahead, Furniture Designs plans to continue strengthening their online presence while also offering exemplary customer service in their store.

And if you’re considering purchasing new furniture for your home, Stephen has some well-founded tips from his decades in the furniture business.

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Stephen McCaffrey (Image: Aidan O’Neill)

“Know your budget, know your sizes, and try to find the right sales person to talk to – people shouldn’t push you for the sake of the sale. Find someone who is knowledgeable and insightful.”

Furniture Designs is available online at Furniture Designs, and is located on the Old Bawn Road in Tallaght.

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