Gary Oliver reflects on industry trends and Trimline’s 55-year history


UK-based maritime interiors specialists Trimline is celebrating 55 years in operation. To commemorate this landmark, they share their views on industry trends and some of the secrets of their success.

The company’s founder, Reg Oliver, decided to pursue maritime interiors after he was made redundant in 1965 and gifted a sewing machine by his ex-employer. Oliver had a background in trimming, an upholstery practice he’d used during his time working for the railway, and decided to offer upholstering services to the local marine market. From need and knowledge, he stitched together a successful enterprise.

By the 1980s, Trimline had expanded to offering full interior refits for cruise ships, ferries and defence vessels. Oliver’s sons, Mike and Gary, joined the business, working first as apprentices on the shop floor. They continued to advance and by the time Reg retired, in the early 1990s, Gary had become the company’s managing director and Mike was head of sales.

The company family has also grown, employing 100 people at the 33,000ft² (3,066m²) headquarters and expanding operations to an 11,000ft² (1,022m²) warehouse site nearby to keep up with sales volume.

Longtime Trimline employee, Barry Hurst, who recently celebrated 40 years in the furnishings department at the company, says of his experience, “I have seen a lot of changes during my 40 years working here. The industry has changed, and we have changed with it, but the one consistent is the people here. Trimline is such a great team to work with and I’m still enjoying it.”

Trimline chairman, Gary Oliver, shared additional insights on key trends in the maritime interiors sector:

What are some of the top trends in interiors today, compared to when you started? For example, are there any materials or manufacturing techniques that have made a considerable difference in your business over this time?
This is a huge topic but here are three key trends that we are currently experiencing from an interiors point of view.

Multifunctional public spaces
As a cruise ship can be used for multiple types of cruises, we are asked to create public spaces that are flexible enough to be used for different purposes. It might be used as a lecture area during a nature/wildlife cruise and then as a cocktail demonstration space during another cruise.

Repurposing public spaces
We often work with our clients to repurpose under-utilised spaces on board. Not just in the guest areas but also in the crew quarters, which are remodelled to suit current needs and trends. One example is the conversion of food outlets; for example, transforming a burger bar into a specialist Japanese restaurant or similar, to match food trends on land.

A crew area on Rhapsody of the Seas

Crew area upgrades
As more and more new ships are built, the demand for experienced ship staff is increasing. To secure and retain the best staff at sea, we are working with brands such as RCCL to upgrade crew areas. This includes not only updating what is currently there but also repurposing areas to improve the conditions. Previously, there may have just been one crew bar, whereas now some ships have three different ones.

Sustainability is now a big focus as all cruise lines work to reduce their carbon footprint. We work closely with them to suggest sustainable materials in our quotations and also look at alternatives to challenges, for example, if a bar top is scratched, we can look at using our specialist paint sprayers to respray it instead of replacing it.

Bespoke joinery TUI Cruises’ Mein Schiff 4

Do you do a lot of custom work or engage in the design process?
Our furnishings and joinery departments are often called upon to manufacture custom items. The most recent refurbishment on board TUI Cruises’ Mein Schiff 4 is one of our largest projects in terms of bespoke joinery and furnishings.

How has cruising changed since the early days of Trimline?
The whole industry is now catering to all holidaymaker demographics, from families to solo travellers. They now offer the full range of holiday experiences, from short weekend cruises with friends to expedition cruises. Dining has also changed greatly. It used to be all about formal dress and fine dining, but now things are far more flexible with restaurants for every taste, depending on the cruise you are on. There really is something for everyone these days.

What do you see as the biggest challenges in the marine interiors market today?
Human resources and logistics. Each of our projects needs several hundred contractors. All must be vetted to ensure they are the correct calibre and then we are responsible for getting them to site in time to start work and manage them throughout the project. Also, our refits can take place anywhere around the globe so a big challenge is ensuring all our containers of materials arrive on time to start the project as planned.

To what do you attribute Trimline’s longevity and success?
I have often been asked how have we done it. The answer is not a simple one, but there are three top factors. Firstly, listen very carefully to what your customers tell you and really get to know them. From building a specification to finding out what they are planning next, find out what they are thinking, and remember it is they that control your world. Secondly, do not remove all the profits from the business, save enough for a rainy day or even a recession. Thirdly, employ and try your best to retain really good people who are smarter than you are. The ego has no place in business.

Images: Trimline


About Author


Marisa has been writing about transport design and the passenger experience since 2013 and is also a contributor to sister titles Aircraft Interiors International and Business Jet Interiors International. She has travelled the world extensively by car, plane, train and cruise liner.

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