written by:
November 21, 2011

One of the most interesting furniture companies I've come across lately is Fin Art Co. based in Denver, Colorado. When childhood friends Rob McGowan and Ben Olson graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder they were in a situation known to many—ready to leave the world of hand-me-downs and cheap thrift store finds behind. But then they encountered another all-too-familiar scenario. "We didn't have the money to afford the modern designs we liked," says McGowan. "So we decided to try our hand at building them."

DENVER'S FIN ART CO.

Childhood friends Rob McGowan and Ben Olson decided to try their hand at building the types of modern design they wanted but couldn't afford and eventually founded Fin Art Co.

1 / 5
"These hanging lights are framed in walnut  and made from original 1960's glass negatives of the Texas landscape taken from a survey plane," says Rob McGowan.

"These hanging lights are framed in walnut and made from original 1960's glass negatives of the Texas landscape taken from a survey plane," says Rob McGowan.

2 / 5
One of McGowan's favorite pieces is this dining table. "We found a 4.5-inch-thick old growth pine beam that was once used to support an 1800's building. We mounted it on white lacquered MDF legs to draw tension between the overly thick top and the glossy

One of McGowan's favorite pieces is this dining table. "We found a 4.5-inch-thick old growth pine beam that was once used to support an 1800's building. We mounted it on white lacquered MDF legs to draw tension between the overly thick top and the glossy wishbone base," he says.

3 / 5
This console illustrates the contrast of old an new materials found in Fin Art's work. One of their influences is Brooklyn-based furniture maker <a href="http://www.palosamko.com/">Palo Samko</a>, who has a similar aesthetic.

This console illustrates the contrast of old an new materials found in Fin Art's work. One of their influences is Brooklyn-based furniture maker Palo Samko, who has a similar aesthetic.

4 / 5
The wood used for the front of this dresser was taken from a 1950s factory cart. I really like the pop of cerulean in the drawers.

The wood used for the front of this dresser was taken from a 1950s factory cart. I really like the pop of cerulean in the drawers.

5 / 5
fin art co shop

DENVER'S FIN ART CO.

Childhood friends Rob McGowan and Ben Olson decided to try their hand at building the types of modern design they wanted but couldn't afford and eventually founded Fin Art Co.

With zero formal training, they started out by cobbling together a sofa. They borrowed a hand saw and plug-in drill and set to work in their backyard. Their first foray into furniture building wasn't a complete success, but it got them noticed. "We didn't think about fitting the sofa through our doorframe and it was so large that we ended up cutting a hole in our rental's wall to get it inside." McGowan says. "The sofa eventually fell apart, but with every problem we've encountered, we've learned important lessons."

"These hanging lights are framed in walnut  and made from original 1960's glass negatives of the Texas landscape taken from a survey plane," says Rob McGowan.

"These hanging lights are framed in walnut and made from original 1960's glass negatives of the Texas landscape taken from a survey plane," says Rob McGowan.

McGowan and Olson borrowed more tools from friends, set up shop in a one-car garage, got to work building furniture, and learned from more mistakes (like the case of a 200-pound lighting fixture that took four people and four days to hang). They also began to scour their neighborhood and local salvage yards for materials, a move that imbues their work with a rough-hewn yet modern sensibility. "We find a sense of nostalgia while working with reclaimed materials because of the peculiarities metal and wood gain with age," says McGowan.

One of McGowan's favorite pieces is this dining table. "We found a 4.5-inch-thick old growth pine beam that was once used to support an 1800's building. We mounted it on white lacquered MDF legs to draw tension between the overly thick top and the glossy

One of McGowan's favorite pieces is this dining table. "We found a 4.5-inch-thick old growth pine beam that was once used to support an 1800's building. We mounted it on white lacquered MDF legs to draw tension between the overly thick top and the glossy wishbone base," he says.

"Our designs draw tension between modern and aged," he continues. "Though we make multiples in our current line, every piece in inherently unique because of the salvaged materials." Some of the more idiosyncratic materials that McGowan and Olson incorporated into their pieces include an airplane wing, a curved rolling conveyor, and a factory cart. Reclaimed wood also plays prominently in their works, like the repurposed walnut flooring used in this mod credenza.

This console illustrates the contrast of old an new materials found in Fin Art's work. One of their influences is Brooklyn-based furniture maker <a href="http://www.palosamko.com/">Palo Samko</a>, who has a similar aesthetic.

This console illustrates the contrast of old an new materials found in Fin Art's work. One of their influences is Brooklyn-based furniture maker Palo Samko, who has a similar aesthetic.

Just as they outgrew their backyard shop, they outgrew their makeshift garage workshop. About one year ago, they settled into an old auto body shop where they work full-time crafting new pieces. If you're in the Denver area, visit them at 185 W. Bayaud Ave.

The wood used for the front of this dresser was taken from a 1950s factory cart. I really like the pop of cerulean in the drawers.

The wood used for the front of this dresser was taken from a 1950s factory cart. I really like the pop of cerulean in the drawers.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016
amaroso40040
When a garage damaged by termites had to go, a studio emerges.
June 19, 2016
the blue lagoon iceland geothermal spa hotel water visitors
The famed geothermal spa outside Reykjavík, Iceland, is entering a major new phase—paving the way for the area’s first five-star hotel.
June 19, 2016
heaven on earth maya lin topography what is missing california academy sciences wood video
A new monograph by Rizzoli explores the memorial project by the renowned artist.
June 19, 2016
gable game austin texas cantilevered home facade windows upper level car port
For Dwell's annual issue dedicated to indoor/outdoor living. Here, we introduce you to the photographers and writers who made it happen.
June 18, 2016