"I have always had a passion for furniture design. We look at making products that are not throwaway but long term. We see them as modern classics."
Homegrown | David Shaw Furniture
Homegrown is a series highlighting some of our local and loved creative businesses in the community who have been designing and crafting on the local and international stage.
Today we get an insight into well-known New Zealand furniture design and manufacturer, David Shaw Furniture, their history, culture and vision driving their team. David left school at 16 to pursue his passion behind furniture design and manufacture.
Tell us about your business, its history and evolution.
It started in 1982, upholstering ottomans and chairs in my garage while working two jobs. Over the years we expanded and adapted with the market to stay ahead of the trend while staying true to our values of keeping manufacturing in New Zealand. As imported furniture has increased over the decades, we have had to drastically change from a retail model to working with architects and designers. This marks an important transformation of our brand and allowed us to be a part of some of the best projects and developments in New Zealand.
What is your vision and driving passion?
We aim to stay true to our values of high end, quality, New Zealand made furniture. Since the beginning we have worked exclusively with local materials and suppliers and still employ people that started with us. We believe our biggest strength, alongside quality, is custom modification to the product and serving the customer’s needs. Our passion is creating furniture to last generations, using a mix of modern machinery and hand crafting.
How do you satisfy this in design and manufacturing process?
Through having a collaborative approach with designers to create bespoke designs and modifications to fit the client’s brief. We bring our designs to life by bringing the craftspeople and designers together under one roof to problem solve and create innovative prototypes. We rework the product until it is ready for the market.
We are also proud to produce high quality New Zealand made products with a low environmental footprint.
Using local suppliers and materials, our focus has always been to keep the work in New Zealand, while still incorporating a wide range of materials. We have been focusing on copper, stone and marble in the last few months to elevate the designs. Lately our favourite fabrics have come from Mokum and Designs of the Time and Zinc, Zumeriz
So we end up creating these quality products to last a lifetime with cutting edge design that transcends trend.
Where do you get your inspiration from, past, current, future?
Primarily we get inspiration from designers, fabrics, architectural buildings, art, and travel. We have great respect for the craftsmanship the Europeans bring to the marketplace, so furniture fairs are important, as are the Italian brands at Salone who always come out with innovative ways to reinvent the industry. Finally it is important also for us to revisit past designs, learning from their strengths and weaknesses and reinterpreting them for today.
What are the benefits of craftsmanship and how does it manifest itself in the time of automation?
We strive for a lower environmental footprint by creating pieces that will last a lifetime. We take pride in the quality of our production and can offer a wide range of configurations and modifications that cannot be achieved by mass production. Our strengths in quality come with years of experience in manufacturing locally. We use a mixture of foam and hand crafting to ensure the design is sculptural while including the highest comfort levels.
We find we have items passed down from generations that we recover, highlighting the value and skill involved when something is hand crafted.
People are the most important part of any business, how does your team work and how does it impact your product?
For over 38 years we have refined the process and team to deliver outstanding results. We work collaboratively to build the knowledge and cross train our staff to build up skills. As a result each team member is invested in the process and strive to produce exceptional products.
We have a 10 year product guarantee on our upholstered products. Every station on the production line is signed off to ensure quality has been controlled from the start to the completion of the job. The final check is at wrapping station by myself.
Your daughter Amy has recently sold her own business to join forces with you. What does the next generation of the Shaw name bring to the business?
Amy has a vision of making David Shaw the leading cutting edge design house in New Zealand. She has a strong focus on the David Shaw philosophy of New Zealand made, high quality furniture to last a lifetime.
Her desire to push our designs to new limits by using traditional hand finishes with modern machinery. Sourcing the most interesting materials and using cutting edge processes to create pieces of art that will be past down from generation to generation.
With Amy's modern views for the future, teamed with my wealth of knowledge we believe we can set a new standard in New Zealand to service our industry, with a strong emphasis on being a sustainable brand and reducing our environmental footprint.
All images © David Shaw Furniture