Finding Its Way

Vergola is banking on SoCal’s weather to build its reputation

Jitendra Ragunath says Vergola, his company’s louver roof system, is “crucial.”

Australia-based Vergola takes the best aspects of pergolas and verandas to keep the sun out, enable cross-flow ventilation and protect outdoor areas from the rain—all with the flip of a switch.

“Southern California, to me, is made for this product,” says Ragunath, Vergola’s managing director. “If you look at the climate in Southern California, it’s similar to parts of Australia.

“People enjoy an outdoor lifestyle. At the same time, no one wants to sit in the direct hot sun, especially now, when we’re aware of skin cancer. It gives you the flexibility of being able to adjust the louvers, sit outdoors, but not necessarily in the direct heat.”

Patios, terraces, walkways, yards, carports, barbecue areas, balconies and swimming pools are some of the places where Vergola creates the ability to enjoy tranquility and create a dynamic entertainment area for family and friends.

Created and designed in South Australia in 1984 by engineer Tony Rossiter, the Vergola roof system was awarded the 1985 Prince Philip Prize for Australian design in the building industry and won the Australian Design Council Award twice.

“Our founders were trying to find something to close the gap between what is available traditionally—a traditional pergola or lattice roof in the United States and a veranda,” Ragunath says.

“We were trying to come up with something to meet both requirements. That’s how Vergola was born. A Vergola was an operable louvered roof system.”

Ragunath explains Vergola gives customers flexibility.

“A lattice roof just gives them shade but not protection,” he says. “A veranda is always closed. We managed to come up with a product that is well received today. When it rains or there’s inclement weather, they can close the louvers and its interlocking design ensures they will have a solid roof or veranda.”

Well established in Australia, Vergola was introduced to the United States about 15 years ago. Thanks to distributors, Vergola had a “reasonable response,” he says.

“The U.S. went through a financial crisis and most of the dealers went off to do other work,” says Ragunath, who recently installed Vergola at the Hammer Museum’s restaurant.

“I had a soft spot for the United States and California, and once the economy recovered, it was my intention to be here. We were getting calls from existing customers who needed parts or service. I thought if we were going to do it—and do it correctly—we had to do it ourselves.”

Vergola invested in the U.S. market, hired a local staff and is working “very, very hard to grow the market again.”

“The Australian market is very well established,” he says. “We grew from nothing. One of our challenges is people don’t know the product. In their mind, they often try to compare us to a lattice or a veranda. Obviously, we’re more than a traditional lattice.

“I see a lot of potential in the United States. I feel passionate that this could not only be good for the United States, but it could be beneficial to the American public at large.”