An interview with Kaety Thompson of Oliver Thom

Posted by Mandy Simpson on

A tranquil haven in Sydney’s east, Oliver Thom was born to fill a gap in the market for high-end and finely-crafted bathroom accessories. Opened by co-founders Marc Reed, owner and director of Candana Bathroomware, and designer Kaety Thompson in 2018, the store offers a thoughtful collection of products from around the world. 

We spoke to Kaety about her career and sourcing process, her tips on creating a bathroom as a place of retreat, as well as our collaboration on the Sabbia bathroom set.

Photography by Jacqui Turk, courtesy of Oliver Thom.


Pictured above: Marc and Kaety, co-founders of Oliver Thom (left) and the shop interior (right).

Tell us a bit about Marc and yourself. What led to you opening the store, and how has the store evolved since then? Have you found consumers’ tastes changing over the years? 

Marc and I have worked together for 15+ years. I was a design consultant at Candana when he was just transitioning into a managerial role at his parents’ long-standing business. During our years at Candana, we noticed when fitting out beautiful, high-end bathrooms it was always difficult for our customers to find accessories to finish their project the right way. Renovating or building a bathroom is not a cheap exercise so it doesn’t make sense to put in inferior accessories at the end of it all. So Marc actually came to me with the idea of opening a stand-alone store specifically for these products. 

I spent a year just on R&D, sourcing bathroom homewares from international and local suppliers, and put together a curation of brands that would suit the stylish and design-conscious consumer. We started the business as an online venture but quickly found that our customers wanted to view the products in person. It’s difficult buying candles, towels online when you want to smell, feel them, so we decided to open a pop-up shop and see how a bricks & mortar experience would go. 

It was an instant success and we were lucky enough to find space a 3 minute walk from Candana so we could easily continue the relationship between the two brands. Covid definitely had a big impact on our customers and our target market overall. Being locked up really opened our range of products to not just renovators or customers building, but anyone wanting to make their bathroom a retreat. During lockdown living rooms became offices, kitchens became schools so the bathroom was really the only private room left that you could spend some down time in and so we really began to focus on products that were more centred on self-care and a spa-like bathroom experience.

The store has a beautifully curated range of elegant bathroom accessories. Can you share your sourcing process and what you look for in a product? How do you discover new up-and-coming designers and makers? 

Before we started OT, Marc and I were very clear on what kind of products we wanted to offer and our ethos aligns with Candana in that we don’t want to have every and any bathroom brand. We want to be quite selective and have a range of products that is not readily available at every other store and that has been thoughtfully added. 

I’m sometimes lucky enough to travel to trade fairs (international and local) to source our product. Just like the consumer I like to see, touch and feel the products in person. It is the best way to gauge its quality. Now that we are an established brand, we also receive lots of product samples and contact from brands that want to be added to our store, which is very flattering and we have definitely taken on many brands this way. Our criteria for product has always been quite simple: that it is made in a sustainable way, has a high quality and is aesthetically pleasing. 


Pictured above: Sabbia bathroom set in black (left). 

We very much enjoyed our collaboration on the bathroom set. Can you talk a little bit about the reason behind the creation of the bathroom set and why you chose ESKO Home? 

We’ve always loved the handcrafted nature of the ESKO range of products and Mandy is always such a pleasure to deal with so it was a no-brainer for us to want to do a collaboration. For us it started with the soap dish. We really sensed a gap in the market for a soap dish that drained but also contained the excess water. We also wanted this item to be small enough to fit on a shower niche or shelf, so with this customer feedback we knew ESKO would be the perfect brand to collaborate with and work with us to make this a reality. From there, we added some crucial pieces i.e. tray, tumbler and container which have all become beloved in their own right.

Colour plays an important role in how we feel. How did you choose the colours for the bathroom set and what was the inspiration behind the name ’Sabbia’? 

One of the things that I think differentiates us from our competitors is our broad range of colour options. We quite confidently are able to keep up with colour trends that are also complementary to classic aesthetics. We decided to choose two colours that would suit a light and dark scheme and be complementary to a large range of other accessories that you could combine with the set. 

Once we decided upon a beautiful sandy beige and charcoal black it was easy for me to come up with a name for the set. Sabbia is the Italian word for sand, I was born in Sicily and the Sicilian beaches have always held a special place in my heart so it seemed right that this collab has a name that is suited to the sandy beaches and volcanic black sand of Etna (for the black set).


Pictured above: Sabbia bathroom set in black (left) and sand (right).

You are committed to offering well-designed objects for the home with a high level of craftsmanship. What is your philosophy on investing in quality, timeless pieces? 

We have always followed the mindset of buy once, buy well. We want our customers to take home items that will last a lifetime. Not only for financial reasons but also to help with the war on waste and really moving away from single-use products. Which is why when sourcing, we always think about the longevity of the item and its waste impact. Even our plastic soap dispensers are often sold with refills or the option to recycle. The products in your bathroom are used every day, multiple times a day, so you definitely don’t want to skimp on these pieces, they should last as long as your fixtures and fittings.

Sustainability is an important factor to both Oliver Thom and ESKO Home – what practices do you employ at Oliver Thom to reduce your environmental impact and do you choose products based on their sustainability credentials? 

That has always been one of our key criteria when starting OT. Sustainability is so important and deeply impacting our everyday lives so your bathroom products should adhere to that, too. When sourcing we look behind the manufacture of the products; where are they made, is it an ethical enterprise and especially for our fragrance-based products (candles, skincare, hand & body wash, etc), are they using environmentally friendly ingredients and procedures. We are also doing our small part by using eco-friendly packaging options like eco-wrap and brown paper instead of bubble wrap and using recycled boxes to ship our orders.   

What are your tips on creating a tranquil bathroom in order to nurture a gentler pace of life?

Keeping the space minimal helps (get rid of clutter and unnecessary items). Your bathing space should be free of distraction so you can focus on relaxation and ritual. Surround yourself with the colours and textures you love and make sure to include the scents that evoke positive memories and feelings. And lastly, drown out the day’s noise with a relaxing playlist. 

And lastly, what are you looking forward to in 2024 and what’s next for Oliver Thom? 

We’re celebrating 5 years of Oliver Thom this October, so we feel very fortunate to be able to get to this point and continue to share our range of products with new and existing customers. Possibly some more sourcing trips and hopefully more product collaborations!

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