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Brian Murphy

It was the start of the swinging 60’s when a rebellious Brian Murphy decided to go it alone; shunning the comfort of paid employment for the wheeler dealer lifestyle of a self-start entrepreneur. A carpet fitter by trade the smooth operator began his business, the aptly named B.L Murphy Carpets, from the family living room – piling high the high pile at his Camberwell digs, much to the delight of his long suffering wife.

It wasn’t long before the plucky London lad started to establish a reputation (and a good one at that) in the industry, and in the decades that followed Brian found himself taking over warehouses and shop fronts aplenty. When times were tough he even went as far as to sell his Rolls Royce in order to fund the acquisition of Global Furniture Hire in 1983.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, the founding father (literally) of Europa International Ltd – as it is now known – has watched this humble family-business grow into what it is today; tackling issues including escapee pigs, trapped nuns and too-narrow lanes combined with too-wide artic lorries, amongst others, along the way.

Now happy titivating his Dahlias he’s thriving doing what he wants, when he wants – apart from being coerced into regular visits to M&S, although he does have a soft spot for Lidl!


Steve Murphy

With the business rapidly expanding and Dad Brian spreading himself ultra-thin by trying to manage shops, attend exhibitions and keep across an ever growing product range, Steve Murphy Senior officially joins Europa International in 1976 in his capacity as ‘Chief Do It All’.

Turning his back on a career in educating young people as an actual proper teacher in order to dedicate himself wholeheartedly to teaching the team to ‘do daft’, Steve quickly got to grips with the ever evolving world of carpet fittings and, before long, was cajoling his dad into selling his much loved Rolls Royce in order to diversify into furniture hire services.

His penchant for dressing up (or not getting dressed at all) has occasionally landed him in hot water – picture the Met Police being called to a scene where a half naked Steve is painted as Papasmurf trying to strike the right pose for the calendar photo shoot – but on the whole his contribution has helped the business continue to head in the right (if not always totally predictable) direction.

Fast forward 40 years and he is now the proud MD of Europa having taken over from Brian back in 2005. He has been integral to some of the company’s most challenging decisions; recently fulfilling a life-long dream with the erection of flagpoles donning the Company flag (which were later, rather unfortunately, decimated in high winds).

With his family by his side he continues to do what Steve does best… make his clients smile.


Karen Butterfield(nee Murphy)

Dedicated to making sure that Brother Steve doesn’t spend all of the company money on snazzy outfits (there was one incident involving an orange denim suit and blue suede shoes) and that Europa International occasionally, ya know, turns a profit, Karen can often be found casting a meticulous eye over the company’s ledgers in her role as Finance Director.

Joining the family business in the (not so swinging) 70’s, the human calculator isn’t all about the numbers though; regularly donning her alter ego as a football hooligan in order to shout from the terraces at the home of her much loved Crystal Palace F.C.

When she isn’t hurling abuse at men in uniform running around on a field (or is it kit on a pitch?), or totting up Europa’s shekels on an abacus, Karen likes to pretend she’s training for the Tour De France by taking part in spinning classes to keep fit.  


Sam Sturges(nee Murphy)

Best known by her colleagues as ‘the chatty one’ Sam takes her role as ‘Head of Verbal Communications’ very seriously – ensuring that everyone at Europa International has access to the latest TOWIE updates (whether they want it or not)… making everyone smile in the process!

Responsible for making sure that everyone in the world knows about the business, that the office runs like clockwork and that all files are appropriately well filed, she likes to spread the word about the wonder that is Europa as far afield as possible by combining her passion for travelling with her love of chatting.

With grave concerns that her family were enjoying far too much peace and quiet in her absence, Sam was one of the most recent members of the Murphy clan to join the business and, in 2002, she followed hot on the heels of Stephen (Steve Junior) to take her place on the team in order to help guide the organisation into a new era and a new century… QUITE LOUDLY!


Stephen Murphy

Stephen’s first day at Europa International back in 2002 marked the dawn of a new era for the business; with the first of the third generation of the Murphy family firmly putting aside his not so secret ambition to become a 70'S Disco Diva Cover Artist - with a really hairy chest – in order to join the ranks (see Europavision on our Fun Page).

Officially the company’s Senior Designer and Account Manager responsible for all things design and account manager like, he once arrived at a show wearing little more than a pair of pink shorts showcasing an impressive set of thighs. He now goes by the affectionate nickname of ‘Legs’ amongst the ladies in the industry, whereas his long suffering colleagues prefer to call him Steve Junior, or Smurf.

Under the steam of youthful exuberance (and limited experience) the business began to embrace the 21st century and, in the years that followed, a total rebrand was ordered and overseen by the newly appointed marketing manager.

Stephen would later be joined by Sister (biological, not religious) Amanda as the business, built on a bedrock of Murphy’s, continues its journey into the unknown


The 1960s

So, the Swinging Sixties sees Brian swing into action as time is called on his employer Cyril Lord. Within a couple of weeks Brian, armed with his trusted motorcycle and sidecar, is ready to take on the world of floorcovering!

In eagerness, Brian forgets he has a sidecar as he ploughs towards a bus-stop with passengers scattering in all directions – oh well onwards and upwards…

With his first job under his belt, he presents his first cheque to the bank only to find they won’t accept it as he has failed to register the Company. But this didn’t deter him… Soon his flat in Camberwell becomes overrun with carpet that constantly slides down the stairs, blocking the front door – oh happy days, but Elsie his wife isn’t quite so keen, nor are the other residents of the flats!

Elsie is busy doing the accounts and his sister Pam helps hand sew carpets together in the biggest space they have – the bedroom!

Brian takes on a partner, a job share with another Cyril Lord ex-fitter but it doesn’t last long! “Whoever’s house the job was nearest to, that’s where we’d start. Trouble was, his wife made all the bookings and unsurprisingly, all the jobs were near his house! I’d be the one sitting out on the bike getting drenched while he went in, talked to the customers and got a nice cup of tea!”

Brian eventually finds his first warehouse in Beckenham, Kent. He breaks into exhibition carpet hire using reusable 40” Criterion cord that he cleans in the yard and hangs to dry over scaffold poles (they are still there to this day!) between the garages. Contracts are now being won for the DTI and Brian finds himself all over Europe and beyond… on one of these trips, Brian finds himself sitting in a café in Frankfurt. He glances up at its name ‘Cafe Europa’ – Europa is born.

Whoever’s house the job was nearest to, that’s where we’d start…trouble was his wife made all the bookings and so all the jobs were near his house!

The 1970s

The 70’s see the number of shows increasing and The Motor Show is now a busy event for Europa – working on the TVR stand, where semi-naked women draped over the cars are making a big impact on impressionable teenager Steve! Steve knows this is the business for him…

Never one to miss an opportunity, the power cuts of the mid-70s sees children Karen and Kevin set out a stall on the street selling candles. Brian now goes from “Selling the light” to “hearing voices”… he answers the prayers for two Nuns from the local convent as he comes to their rescue as they are accidently locked in the Europa showroom at lunchtime! “I heard the phone line clicking…I lifted the phone and a voice just said Hello, anybody there…? To my surprise two Nuns had wandered into our showroom!”

While Steve is busy buying orange denim suits and blue suede boots, to impress the ladies from the motor show, the company goes from

strength to strength, even supplying carpet to one of Beckenham’s most famous residents, David Bowie at his home in Haddon Hall. “I’ve still got an exercise book we used for our accounts with ‘Davie Bowie – £6.50’ marked in it” Brian recalls…

In 1976 Steve joins his dad in the company full-time, followed by his other son Kevin, daughter Karen and nephew Anthony. And in ’79 Steve junior is born at 2.32am, later to become a third generation of Murphy’s in the business. In true Murphy style this doesn’t stop Brian and Steve being at Earls Court for 8am that morning though to work on the Royal Smithfield Show, where they promptly get chased by a prize pig as it leaps from its pen!

Hello, anybody there…? To my surprise two Nuns had wandered into our showroom!

The 1980s

Europa buys its first fax machine (cost £1800) despite not knowing anyone else with a fax – be prepared, you never know is the cry! Then a call from the US is soon received requesting a brochure to be faxed over (eventual order value – £1000). Who’d have guessed… How did we manage without it?

The decision to purchase Global Furniture Hire Ltd is to dramatically change the fortunes of the business. Fitting carpet and delivering the furniture at the same time – how can they lose? The bank doesn’t agree, or seemingly understand the ‘hire’ concept. “Why can’t you just sell the furniture after the client has finished with it to keep your cash flow going?” asks the Bank Manager.

Times were hard as bad debts accrued and knowing Bailiffs on first name terms! But never one to be put off Brian sells his prize Rolls Royce to fund the deal – and then buys a Canary yellow MGB GT – “Well I need wheels of some sorts…!”

The 80’s proved to serve up many challenges as more staff needed to be employed, staff working long hours, pull outs made difficult because venues had turned the

power off and no lights to work with apart from what came from the vehicles, and drivers falling asleep at the wheel of vehicles on the way home! Health & Safety…No?

To stay fresh and ahead Brian is now at the heart of the design and build of new furniture, creating some impressive units. Sadly, Steve “forms the demolition department” and manages to run one of them over with a truck before it even leaves Croydon! The new production line sits in Brian’s garage at home as Europa continues to grow, much to the annoyance of Brian’s neighbours!

By 1987, the business has grown so much that a new warehouse is needed, so Europa moves to Penge. At this time you can drive in one door and out the other piling the furniture in the middle – it all looks a little bit lost… but not for long!

Why can’t you sell the furniture after the client has finished…?

The 1990s

As the 90’s dawned colour choices in furniture weren’t great! You can have any colour you like as long as it’s well… browny grey! So changes had to be made… let’s add a splash of colour was the decision!

So, Europa then took proud delivery of red, white and brown plastic folding chairs… well it was a start anyway! “The change” had begun as more choice and colours soon followed… with trips to Europe to find inspiration and quality soon part of the plan but this also had its problems!

Brian recalls…“To ensure we were getting the best deals, we drove all day Monday through thick snow across the Alps to visit our main suppliers, finally arriving in Italy on Tuesday morning, tired and gasping for a drink… to be only greeted with a ‘hello’ and a thimble full of coffee! Confusion reigned… as a mix of Italian and South East London accents clashed we found their MD wasn’t even there - he’d flown to England to visit us!”

As the years click by, opportunities were always around the corner… after a visiting client spots a 10-panel display background created by Brian for a furniture photo-shoot, the moment was seized and a hundred panels are rapidly produced! A few weeks later Europa is supplying its first shell scheme to the organizer in the grounds of the Imperial College – Eurosystem is launched!

“Let’s Go Green” is now the thought as Europa goes green - not the modern idiom, we just change our branding from the Red, White and Blue of old!

New technology has arrived – the Internet is upon us and as ever Brian is keen to grasp it! So Europa’s first website “goes live.”

Tired and gasping for a drink…to be only greeted with a ‘hello’ and a thimble full of coffee! Confusion reigned as a mix of Italian and South East London accents clashed…

The 2000s

The start of the 21st century sees grandson Stephen officially become the third generation to join the family business, followed closely by Sam, who joins her Mum, Dad, brothers, sister and cousin.

Always a “Snappy dresser” Steve Junior is sent out to oversee shows. He turns up on site in pink shorts, with impressive thighs, one client swoons and “Legs” becomes his instant nickname.

Names give cause for confusion on a number of occasions for young Stephen… one instance when manning a service desk, Stephen was challenged for being too young to be on the desk, when asked his name “Steve Murphy” he replied “Then who is your Boss?”… “Steve Murphy” he replied again, with a smile….angrily the venue manager replied “Are you some sort of joker..?” “No Sir –he’s my Dad!” So names changed and “Smurf” was born.

The ‘Noughties’ also signals a new look for Europa as it embraces the value of Marketing – Helen Cole is brought on board. Now the fun really starts!

The company rebrands with its now instantly recognisable cheeky OP smile logo. The cheeky theme continues throughout Europa’s marketing activity with filming viral videos (and nearly being arrested by the Met Police in the process!) to a naked calendar photo-shoot that sends Helen to the brink of therapy, and local residents into a state of bewilderment as MD Steve takes a walk around the streets of Penge in his underwear painted as Papa Smurf! Twelve months later he is seen driving back from a Christmas photo-shoot in a Smart car, dressed as Widow Twankey! Just another day at the office of Europa!

As the ‘Noughies’ draw to an end, one more member of the family joins – this time it’s Steve Senior’s daughter – fortunately she doesn’t have a confusing name, and Amanda now takes her place in the office!

My name’s Steve Murphy. Angrily the venue manager asked, Are you some sort of joker? No Sir – Steve Murphy’s my Dad

Fifty years young...

So here we are. Since 1961, Europa has been challenging the way people think about furniture and carpet hire. Thanks to one family’s enduring passion for the exhibition and events industry, and for delivering great service, Europa has flourished and evolved over the past 50 years to become the success story that it is today. It’s what makes us proud to put our name to our products and, ultimately, what continues to inspire us. If something is good, it will last through the decades.

“It’s all about service both in the office and on site. Our passion is to ensure our clients smile and get what they want when they want it, not when we decide the time is right!”

Happy 50th Birthday to us... and to everyone who has been part of our incredible journey and the memories, a huge thank you!


Fifty years of furniture hire


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