Furniture by Design

20 February 2013
Written by Sacha Kenny | Images by Sacha Kenny & Paddy Riley
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Taking the art of design seriously, Don MacDonald talks to Sacha Kenny about the ideal that beautiful furniture can have the quality to enrich lives   

For Scottish designer Don MacDonald, the connection between design, beauty, function and form is the essence of good furniture.

From his childhood growing up on the remote Scottish Island of South Uist to his life in New Zealand, Don’s path has been shaped by an innate calling to be of service. Whether that be through his work as a carpenter/joiner or as a designer of bespoke furniture, the thread that runs though Don's work is the ideal that whatever he puts his hand to will have the essence of enriching lives.

A PERSONAL JOURNEY

“I come from the small fishing village of Loch Eynort on the Outer Hebrides island of South Uist, Scotland.  It’s a very remote place and I guess a harsh place to grow up – we didn’t have electricity until I was about 12. Life on the island is dictated by the seasons so we had to be self-sustainable to a degree and make a lot of things ourselves; boats, houses, stone walls, fences, pieces of furniture – everything really was made by hand. We also cut peat for fuel. So we were always looking for solutions or ways to enhance our lives as well as the lives of others, which in turn led me to carpentry.

“I did my apprenticeship on the island as a carpenter/joiner in the 1980s before moving to the Scottish mainland and working in the building industry.  At that stage I really didn’t know or understand much about the beauty of design - work was all about getting the job done.

“In the mid 1990s I travelled and went to Australia where I had a serious industrial accident, which pretty much stopped time for me and made me rethink my future.  I returned to Scotland where I went to teachers' training college for a short time. I then did a two- year Higher National Diploma at Firth College in Furniture Craftsmanship before completing a BA honours in Furniture Design and Applied Arts from Edinburgh College of Art.

“Before my accident I worked on the restoration of the classic Americas Cup j-class yacht, the Cambria, in Brisbane – this hugely influenced me. The Cambria was made in Scotland in a place called Fairlie, where one of my uncles is still a boat builder today. It was built by the famous yacht designer William Fife. Working on this boat opened me up to incredible design and craftsmanship as well as the ideals of shape and proportions. It wasn’t until later when I was at art college in Edinburgh that these finite aspects of design were really honed for me."

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During his study Don was introduced to a number of design movements of which the early 19th century Shaker Movement made the biggest impression. A religious group known for their stunningly simple, beautifully crafted furniture made to ‘the glory of God’, Shaker furniture is widely admired worldwide for its simplicity, quality and functionality.

Don says “Shaker furniture was more about function than form, whereas nowadays furniture is very much about form over function - how things look rather than how comfortable they. The Shakers applied 100% to what they did, it was like a constant prayer for them so whatever they did was done with an integrity and truthfulness and in doing so they made some quite beautiful pieces of furniture with designs that are still relevant and sought-after today".

“Because furniture design is such a visual thing and an almost intimate thing that people use, it has to be truthful."

"Good design can be seen in any decent shop but great design comes from following a client’s brief based upon their personal taste, experiences and memories." 

Don says “we’re all looking for other people to do for us what we're not inclined to do for ourselves be that accountants, lawyers etc so it’s in that same way I can be of service to people so that the quality of their lives is enhanced through the pieces I design and create".

Producing a suitable brief, building a working relationship, identifying what inspires people as well as using a few design secrets are all tools that Don uses to develop a client's idea.

"A bespoke piece of furniture is really about enhancing the quality of people's lives through its beauty and design.  With my designs I build furniture that will last and be enjoyed for generations.”

 


 

 

 

 

mobile: 0272 933 130

email: '); document.write(addy18785); document.write('<\/a>'); //-->\n This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. " target="_blank"> This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Services:

  • Furniture design/consultancy 
  • Design workshops (greater Wellington area) - Don runs small group workshop where he introduces a range of design skills and secrets, enabling people to develop and hone their creative awareness
  • Joinery skill workshop (greater Wellington area) - drawing, hands-on workmanship and the use of small power tools

 

Taking the art of design seriously, Don MacDonald talks to Sacha Kenny about the ideal that beautiful furniture can have the quality to enrich lives   

For Scottish designer Don MacDonald, the connection between design, beauty, function and form is the essence of good furniture.

From his childhood growing up on the remote Scottish Island of South Uist to his life in New Zealand, Don’s path has been shaped by an innate calling to be of service. Whether that be through his work as a carpenter/joiner or as a designer of bespoke furniture, the thread that runs though Don's work is the ideal that whatever he puts his hand to will have the essence of enriching lives.

A PERSONAL JOURNEY

“I come from the small fishing village of Loch Eynort on the Outer Hebrides island of South Uist, Scotland.  It’s a very remote place and I guess a harsh place to grow up – we didn’t have electricity until I was about 12. Life on the island is dictated by the seasons so we had to be self-sustainable to a degree and make a lot of things ourselves; boats, houses, stone walls, fences, pieces of furniture – everything really was made by hand. We also cut peat for fuel. So we were always looking for solutions or ways to enhance our lives as well as the lives of others, which in turn led me to carpentry.

“I did my apprenticeship on the island as a carpenter/joiner in the 1980s before moving to the Scottish mainland and working in the building industry.  At that stage I really didn’t know or understand much about the beauty of design - work was all about getting the job done.

“In the mid 1990s I travelled and went to Australia where I had a serious industrial accident, which pretty much stopped time for me and made me rethink my future.  I returned to Scotland where I went to teachers' training college for a short time. I then did a two- year Higher National Diploma at Firth College in Furniture Craftsmanship before completing a BA honours in Furniture Design and Applied Arts from Edinburgh College of Art.

“Before my accident I worked on the restoration of the classic Americas Cup j-class yacht, the Cambria, in Brisbane – this hugely influenced me. The Cambria was made in Scotland in a place called Fairlie, where one of my uncles is still a boat builder today. It was built by the famous yacht designer William Fife. Working on this boat opened me up to incredible design and craftsmanship as well as the ideals of shape and proportions. It wasn’t until later when I was at art college in Edinburgh that these finite aspects of design were really honed for me."

article continues below image gallery...

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of

During his study Don was introduced to a number of design movements of which the early 19th century Shaker Movement made the biggest impression. A religious group known for their stunningly simple, beautifully crafted furniture made to ‘the glory of God’, Shaker furniture is widely admired worldwide for its simplicity, quality and functionality.

Don says “Shaker furniture was more about function than form, whereas nowadays furniture is very much about form over function - how things look rather than how comfortable they. The Shakers applied 100% to what they did, it was like a constant prayer for them so whatever they did was done with an integrity and truthfulness and in doing so they made some quite beautiful pieces of furniture with designs that are still relevant and sought-after today".

“Because furniture design is such a visual thing and an almost intimate thing that people use, it has to be truthful."

"Good design can be seen in any decent shop but great design comes from following a client’s brief based upon their personal taste, experiences and memories." 

Don says “we’re all looking for other people to do for us what we're not inclined to do for ourselves be that accountants, lawyers etc so it’s in that same way I can be of service to people so that the quality of their lives is enhanced through the pieces I design and create".

Producing a suitable brief, building a working relationship, identifying what inspires people as well as using a few design secrets are all tools that Don uses to develop a client's idea.

"A bespoke piece of furniture is really about enhancing the quality of people's lives through its beauty and design.  With my designs I build furniture that will last and be enjoyed for generations.”

 


 

 

 

 

mobile: 0272 933 130

email: '); document.write(addy18785); document.write('<\/a>'); //-->\n This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. " target="_blank"> This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Services:

  • Furniture design/consultancy 
  • Design workshops (greater Wellington area) - Don runs small group workshop where he introduces a range of design skills and secrets, enabling people to develop and hone their creative awareness
  • Joinery skill workshop (greater Wellington area) - drawing, hands-on workmanship and the use of small power tools

 

What peope are saying...

 Denise and Ray Weir, Kapiti

“We originally got Don in to coach my husband Rae on some advanced carpentry skills.  During our initial session it became apparent we really needed help with the design first. We wanted living room storage for a multi-media mix of TV, stereo, turntable, albums, CDs, DVDs etc.
Don patiently guided, encouraged, coached and supported us through the design process.  We were impressed with the accuracy of Don’s design drawings. The contemporary low sleek credenza is in two pieces each 1.4m long in dark jarrah.
As it turned out, the final design we wanted was a bit more time-consuming to build than what Rae had time to invest, so we discussed the possibility of getting someone else to build it . 
Don took the hassle out of the whole process  by making it fun and educational and matching us with the right carpenter to build our dream.
In short I would say that Don was the bridge we didn’t know we needed."



Deb and Don Stantiall, Wellington
 
"I talked to Don about making a coffee table for our beach house and I presented him with a newspaper pattern of an asymmetrical top ( the size and proportions that I required).
Don discussed with me various ideas on how to execute this design. He suggested using ply wood, cut with a bevel edge, which was inspired as the different wood colours created an interesting edge. The table legs I wanted to be curved and Don was able to soak and bend the ply to make these.
The result was fantastic. His careful consultation throughout the manufacturing process was reassuring.
Thankyou Don."
 
 

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