Hawaii has far more to offer than just surfing, palm trees and Magnum P.I. This special island, which so many believe only to be a tourist location, also has a furniture history. Continuing my series of articles, I am taking a look beyond the clichés to discover more about the Hawaiian furniture industry.
Hawaiians are well known for their warm welcomes and, arriving at Martin and MacArthur, Hawaii’s longest running furniture making company, I was treated to a greeting worthy of a beautiful Hawaiian summer’s day by Michael Tam, CEO whose smile lit up the huge workshop. By chance, one of the first things I was shown was a perfectly turned, hand sized ‘Umeke’ koa wood bowl, an object which represents an ‘all are welcome’ custom.
The thriving workshop is located on the south shore of Oahu, just a stone’s throw from the Honolulu international airport, the exterior not giving away what great traditions and craftsmanship lie within. Being shown around by Michael, I couldn’t help but feel that I was in a special place, with so much enthusiasm, passion and optimism, the time flew by; his marketing background helping to present his colleagues and products with an unmistakable clarity and pride.
The company was founded in 1961 by furniture maker Jon Martin who was quickly joined by businessman Doug MacArthur, 5 years ago Michael and his partner Simon McKenzie took over the helm and injected a new lease of life, increasing the number of craftsmen from 15 to 30 and introducing a new line of Koa wood home furnishings and personal accessories. There was a great feeling of an evolving family, more than just a business. Martin still pops in from time to time to share his wealth of experience with the craftsmen some of which have been there for up to 25years.
To understand how Martin and MacArthur have succeeded you just have to look at the attention to detail and the care given to each piece of ‘classically inspired Hawaiian’ furniture, the lifetime guarantee being a sign of the quality assurance, all constructed here in Hawaii. Only the finest Koa wood is used, all from Hawaiian sources (95% from the Big Island) with a clear pledge to sustainability, for each piece of furniture sold a new tree is planted. The beautiful, deep, glowing wood is transformed into furniture by an elite group of ‘master craftsmen’, a title which is only attributed after 20 years of dedicated experience.
The company offers a full range of quality, high end furniture and there is not a carved pineapple or leaf in sight. Michael dispelled certain myths and preconceived ideas about their Hawaiian furniture designs. The pieces were originally destined for the plantation homes and for the Monarchy, today they can be seen in the lobbies of most swish hotels dotted around Hawaii not to mention their worldwide success.
The future looks bright for Martin and MacArthur, much like with modern day Hawaii where there is a great balance and marriage between the different cultures new and old, here it’s a combination of Michael’s motivation, a growing customer base and innovative ideas to complement the existing traditional examples.
For more information visit : www.martinandmacarthur.com
Below is a small selection of photos of my visit to Martin and MacArthur.