Darren Scott Design
A designer and furniture maker since 1998, Darren Scott describes his creations as “quality timber design, lovingly created at the other end of New Zealand”.
Darren Scott has the skills to take on a range of furniture projects. Right: HangR: wall-mounted coat rack available in a number of native and exotic species.
Working out of a well-equipped three-bay shed on his property in Otatara near Invercargill, he is more than willing to take on the challenge of a variety of furniture projects – from dining tables and stools to bespoke kitchens and retail projects.
Darren says he grew up in a tradesman’s household and gravitated naturally to activities of a practical nature. “My Dad was a painter and decorator, and a compulsive renovator. I worked with him in the holidays on hundreds of building sites in the suburbs of Dunedin … and helped out with the renovations at home. His tools were always around so I slowly learnt how to handle them.
“My earliest memory of making anything useful was at intermediate school where we carved a small sailing boat out of solid timber, made full sails and, of course, mine had an excellent paint job.”
Left: End-grain macrocarpa or rimu and kahikatea butcher’s block, finished in eco-friendly, food-safe bench oil. Right: Oreti table – Danish-inspired dining table in American white oak.
On leaving school, he studied geography and geology at the University of Otago. “In my final years I added a newly created design paper, which was a bit radical as I was working across science and design. Lecturers from both departments thought this was a strange combination, but I found the geology and design helped me work in 3D spatially in both subjects.
“Geology had lots of sketching of strata and landforms, and thinking about structure underground … while technical drawing was an important aspect of design.“
Darren went on to work in the Department of Zoology at the university for seven years – and as a seabird ecologist on the offshore islands of southern New Zealand. “I have also worked for DOC on and off for many years, which has helped me appreciate the beautiful trees and timber we have here.
“And I was overseas for more than three years, working in the trades on building sites, fabricating, painting and in light engineering. I think in a way this helped develop my problem-solving skills across a range of materials.”
Left: Plywood and totara kitchen. Right: db rimu chairs in plywood and recycled rimu (also available in red beech).
He recalls that his first real attempt at furniture making happened at university. “I needed a desk and couldn’t face paying for one I didn’t like, so I built my own – my first plywood and mixed media creation. Logically, a chair had to follow, and so the journey began.”
Darren continued to ‘experiment’ and entered one of his early chairs in a local competition … receiving a prize for ‘most original’. “I then exhibited the chair in Dunedin and got my first real commission for six chairs and a table. That led to more commissions, which encouraged me to establish a legitimate business.”
He says that early on in his career he was inspired by the traditional designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and the furniture and architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. “Over the years my preferences have evolved into a mix of designers like Alvar Aalto, Eileen Gray and Marcel Breuer – and Frank Gehry’s more contemporary innovations. I would describe my style as a combination of Danish and Japanese influences.”
Left: Double vanity in Tasmanian oak with three soft-close drawers. Right: Sculptured solid rimu vanity top with poplar plywood drawer and dividers.
In 2009 Darren took a two-week steam-bending course at the Centre for Fine Woodworking near Nelson. “The course was exceptional and I learnt so many furniture-related skills beyond the steam bending. The staff’s approach is to encourage you to make amazing pieces.
“I also did a two-day router workshop, which was invaluable. After those courses I equipped my workshop with the tools I needed to be a furniture maker.”
When it comes to working with the raw material, Darren is a big fan of our native species. He especially likes kahikatea, “as it has a beautiful smell when you work with it. Southland silver beech is also very nice … it is relatively hard and more readily available than many other New Zealand species. And exotic species like American white oak, ash and walnut are really exceptional. Oak is so hard and straight – a really timeless timber.”
He says machines and hand tools play an equally important role in his workshop. “The machines do a great job and are very time efficient, but there is always a place for hand skills when it comes to the finer details.
“I have recently purchased a CNC machine and I’m working on a few new ideas to incorporate this tool into some of my batch processing. The real work is in the design but the CNC is there for the labour.”
Left: Reception desk for a Dunedin office: steam-bent kahikatea and walnut top. Right: Shackleton table in American oak, and featuring a clear ‘slumped glass’ top by Escape Glass, Invercargill.
He adds that the most difficult things to make are curves and tapers. “For curves, jigs are needed and then copied, sometimes multiple times. And for tapers, jigs are required for the thicknesser and the hand-held router. The use of my new CNC should make these tasks easier over time.”
Many of Darren’s furniture and homeware items are available from retailers throughout the south. They include Vesta Design Boutique in Queenstown, Off the Wall Gallery in Arrowtown, and a shared creative space at Sollos in Christchurch.
“I also have an online shop at www.felt.co.nz/shop/dsdesign which stocks a range of my work.
“And this summer I have taken some of my product to the markets in Central Otago … mainly smaller items like my chopping boards and bar stools. It has been a great time to meet new people with a passion for quality design.”
He has also worked on a number of commercial/retail projects in the South Island. “For Fluent Solutions in Dunedin I built a steam-bent walnut and kahikatea reception desk and three American white ash credenzas for their office space. And for Vesta Design I made café-style steel and cedar outdoor tables, shop display light boxes, shelving and a jewellery cabinet.
“I‘ve also worked with the Department of Conservation on the design and build of chunky macrocarpa benches for a walk around the Waituna Lagoon in Southland.”
Darren really enjoys working with clients … discussing everything from shape, function and style to size and colour. “Sometimes it is an open brief where we just look at a space together and throw a few ideas around. At other times people have very specific ideas and I build or interpret their vision as best I can within the limits of the chosen materials. My commissions are a really great mix of design and build.”
For more on Darren Scott’s creations, go to https://www.darrenscott.co.nz
– Michael Smith