Denver's Fin Art Co.

Denver's Fin Art Co.

By Diana Budds
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."

"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.

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.

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.

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.

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."

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.

"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.

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.


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.


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