DAVID SHAW FURNITURE: a “passport to quality”

From a young age David Shaw had no doubts about his choice of career. Leaving school at 16, he began his working life in the furniture industry in Christchurch. “And by the age of 19 I had started my upholstery/recovery business out of my garage. Over the years it has evolved into the business you see today.”

David Shaw Ltd David Shaw says his work is driven from experience and investigating new techniques to perfect his craft.

As a designer with no formal qualifications, he says his work is driven from experience and investigating new techniques to perfect his craft. “Today I still test out and tweak my designs personally to make sure everything is right before they go into production. I have always had a keen eye for shapes and how things fit together.”

Inspiration

His preference is for a modern classic style … and he is influenced by ideas generated from his travels, especially to Europe. “My inspiration comes from architecture, art and everyday objects. I have great respect for the craftsmanship the Europeans bring to the marketplace.”

At David Shaw Furniture’s manufacturing facility in Christchurch the emphasis is on creating bespoke furniture of the highest quality and durability. “And we are always evolving and refining our different collections that we take to the market.”

DShaw85&269 Left: Shaw still tests and tweaks his designs personally to make sure everything is right before they go into production. Right: Factory in Antigua Street, Christchurch – creating bespoke furniture of the highest quality and durability.

Employee responsibility

Shaw says the company’s craftspeople – some of whom have been with him for 25 years or more – are capable of producing a diverse range of timeless and distinctive furniture. The quality and accuracy of the finished product sometimes involves the use of the latest machine technology – but, equally, some of Shaw’s designs can only be realised by hand.

He says American oak and ash are perennial favourites because of the quality and consistency of the finish. “But we use a large range of woods, depending on the form and function required for each piece.”

He adds that “quality checks are made at every phase of production to ensure each piece of furniture can be given a 10-year written guarantee”. That comes on the back of the company’s low management philosophy, as every employee involved in the manufacturing process makes a personal commitment to the highest standard of workmanship.

Adapting and prospering

Shaw says the late 1980s and early 1990s were challenging times for the furniture business in Christchurch, with only one in five manufacturers surviving the tariff ‘reforms’ and the wave of cheap and cheerful imports.

David Shaw Furniture pulled through, in part, because of its showrooms in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. In combining manufacturing and retail, Shaw says the company became more engaged with and connected to the end user – able to quickly take on board emerging trends. “We also reinvented ourselves by focusing on the design and architectural industry. This helped us thrive in a market we are inspired by and in awe of every day.”

And now, Shaw feels the New Zealand buying public have come full circle and are more appreciative of locally made furniture … purchasing with quality in mind.

DShaw194&278 Auckland and Christchurch showrooms: by combining manufacturing and retail, the company became more engaged with and connected to the end user – able to quickly take on board emerging trends.

International mix

To complement the David Shaw label, the company sells an unrivalled mix of sophisticated international brands – “working with designers to bring innovation and creativity to their pieces. We believe connecting these unique masterpieces to the New Zealand market allows us to control the quality and design that, unfortunately, can be watered down in a lot of industries these days.”

Among the brands available through David Shaw are Tonon, Henge and James Salmond Furniture. Salmond is a highly respected, Sydney-based cabinetmaker who can customise many of his designs to suit individual requirements – notably by size, fabric and veneer.

Shaw says that on meeting Salmond he was impressed with his designs and their collaboration was born. “We started with one style and continued to increase the number of styles, with a strong focus on wood. We loved that James had a great presence in Sydney and we felt it injected newness into our current offering. I think he has the perfect combination of classic styling while adding something totally unique to make his designs stand out.”

New opportunities

Shaw travels every year to Salone del Mobile in Milan, looking for cutting-edge designs and raw talent to bring back to the New Zealand market … “thus keeping our clients a step ahead of the game. We focus on new materials and techniques that feel fresh. We also update our best-selling styles with new finishes and colours.”

(Launched in 1961, the Milan Furniture Fair is an international showcase of new furniture designs. It has featured a number of New Zealand designers including David Trubridge and design studio Resident.)

DShaw036&011&014 David Shaw designs (left to right): Charlotte chaise (furnished with memory foam and feather-wrap back cushion); Freddie chair (in fabric or leather) and Knox table (aged copper top and American ash base).

Project work

Although Shaw specialises in producing exclusive bespoke pieces, his firm also works on a number of projects in the hospitality and corporate fields, and in partnership with rest homes and schools.

“We can easily bring their visions to life. Our wide range of technology applications and fabric suppliers help us to create exactly what clients need. We have done a lot of work with Good Group Hospitality [a food/beverage business operating out of Auckland and Queenstown], providing a range of tables, chairs and fixtures to ensure we meet function and produce a high-quality finish.”

On reflection

Reflecting on his 35-plus years of working in the furniture industry, Shaw says his firm “has the highest quality product which is still made in New Zealand, in our factory in Christchurch. Our passport to quality can only be achieved by signing off each piece by hand. We have seen many clients buy offshore pieces and eventually they come back to the distinctive and sustainable pieces we create.”

– Michael Smith

All images © David Shaw Furniture

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