May 22, 2014
The Carbon furniture designed by Maxwell Newhouse brings the outdoors into the living space
BY CHRISTINA SYMONS
Renowned as a painter, writer and furniture designer, Maxwell Newhouse is at heart an explorer. Whether he is writing or illustrating children’s books, crafting driftwood furniture or working on an oil painting, Newhouse puts his passion for discovery to work. How long have you been designing objects for living spaces?
In the early ’80s, while owning and operating Fireplaces by Maxwell, I began designing custom glass doors for the fireplace to save energy. The exposure to living room décor encouraged me to explore unique ideas; I am still exploring. What led you to driftwood furniture?
In the early ’90s, I was constantly bringing home pieces of driftwood. I felt compelled to make furniture. The wood dictated what I would create – chairs, benches, and tables – strictly by its form. In 1995, Charles McDiarmid, owner of the Wickaninnish Inn, asked me to make a chair for each of the guest rooms and some tables and benches for the inn. This set the tone for me to continue.
Your new work, the Carbon series, represents a breakthrough. Why? Working with driftwood is rewarding – using raw recycled wood to build – but it is generally all the same light colour. Following design trends, it occurred to me that black is not only a trendy colour but every room should have a dark accent. Burnt black wood is extraordinary in its colour and texture. The finish I put on the wood, does not allow for any transfer of colour or odour from the burning process. It gives the finished product a deep ebony lustre. I call it Carbon furniture.
What do you hope your work conveys? My furniture evokes casual yet rustic style, even a modern flair, suitable for cottage life, ski chalet, or contemporary homes and apartments. Bringing the outdoors into your living space, with re-purposed wood, creates a balance of style and elegance. This type of black burnt finish is popular in design circles around the world. Every piece is dated, signed and numbered. The fact that the wood dictates to a degree how the piece will look makes it one of a kind. I am also working on geometric forms combined with the natural organic shapes, to create coffee tables and garden benches. Each piece can be made in natural wood tones or carbon finish.
Where can we find your custom furniture, paintings and books? Customers can visit my website and contact me directly [regarding furniture] as I like to personally work with each client. My work is also featured at Burnaby Heritage Museum, Petley Jones Gallery and Tundra Books.