Rob McGowan and Ben Olson may represent the ultimate buddy story: middle school friends, who went to college together, moved to another city together (Denver), and now run a booming furniture and design business together, Fin Art. Their work, which McGowan describes as industrial modern, understandably tends toward the masculine, but has extended beyond just furniture and now includes full spaces, including homes, salons, restaurants and stores. McGowan says that post-college the two floundered for a bit, taking odd jobs (“Ben was selling books, I was a travel agent”) before discovering a mutual love of design, and ever since it’s been an organic process all the way: “We got started about seven years ago just tinkering with stuff in our garage and built some interesting pieces people really liked, which led to them actually wanting to pay for them,” he recalls. “Once the check came in we realized, wait a minute, maybe we can do this full time.”
McGowan says their first piece was a long plank of walnut that Olson smoothed with a sander to become a surfboard shaped coffee table. Since then their mutual love of surfing — “We’re both terrible but just love it and the whole culture behind it” — has served as a source of inspiration for their work. Their Gentleman’s Box is a spot-on representative of their design aesthetic: clean, bold, streamlined, with a masculine palette and materials. McGowan says Olson came up with idea as a guy’s version of a jewelry box. “A gentleman should have cool accessories, like a wristwatch, cufflinks, or sunglasses. And yet there’s no place for a guy to put all of that stuff,” McGowan says.
Since Fin Art doesn’t actually sell theirs, and instead tend to give them away as presents, if you want one you’ll have to build it yourself. McGowan says it’s pretty easy, and doable in a handful of hours plus time to buy materials. All you need is a hammer, sand paper, and a table saw.