Christopher McGean, New Furniture out of Old Wood

Ok, ok, so we're all kinda sick of the sustainability fad but give Christopher McGean a chance. Sure, he constructs beautifully designed custom furniture with found materials but he got in the habit for one simple reason: it's cheap.

Each work is rich with history and personality as McGean uses materials found from structures in the Midwest and East Coast. In fact, he has a whole series of pieces made entirely with authentic weathered barn boards.

The 43-year-old started his career in Washington D.C. selling hand crafted works at the D.C. Historic Eastern Market. He moved to Phoenix in 1999 and apprenticed with a Polish old world master furniture maker. With quality technique, he mixes East Coast, European, and Old West aesthetic.

And now it's time for a little Q&A with the guy (after the jump).

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How long have you lived in Phoenix?
I arrived in Phoenix in 1999. Lost love led me on a road trip to here were I met up with all my friends from the east coast who had gone to school here. Never looked back. 

How long have you worked with wood?

I actually have been working with wood since about 1996. I wanted a simple table from a catalog that would have cost me an arm and a leg in shipping to Maui, were I lived at the time, so I made it myself.  

When did you start designing your own pieces?
I started designing my own work back in 1998. If that's what you want to call it. I got creative with old architectural pieces and used them in functional furniture.

Do you work alone or do you have a workshop?
I do not work alone. I have a 15 year old Basset named Mac who assists me in taking breaks.

What led to your interest in reused and environmentally friendly materials?
I had a real interest in reusing materials that came out of old buildings for two simple reasons: 1. they tend to be cheaper
2. the quality of the material I am getting compared to anything produced today is far superior.  
What's your typical price range?
My price range is always in line with what you would find at Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware.  I see them as my direct competition. I also like to keep my items available to as many incomes as possible within reason.  Not to sound too cheesy, but my payment comes when someone really appreciates what I have done for them.  

How involved is the client throughout the design process?

Most of the clients I have are very involved in the process of designing their item to their desires. I like to make certain we are all on the same page so I take all the time needed to consult and design.  

What's your favorite piece/project you've ever made?
The piece that I would say is my absolute favorite (not to say it's like giving away my children when I deliver) would have to be a recent cabinet I made. The client had a space to fill in her living room and I found these 6-foot-by-5-foot arch windows that came out of an old building in Washington, D.C. I stripped them and built this entire 12-foot-by-14-foot cabinet around these windows that I made into doors. It was painted with milk paint and gold leaf detail and hand waxed. It almost didn't fit when I delivered it -- we are talking about a half inch going through the doorway. 
What's the best used wood you've ever found?
The best piece of wood I ever came across was from an Ohio barn. It looked like crap when I got it delivered. Once I sanded it down it turned out to be a 16" wide piece of cherry -- unheard of. It smelled like cow pee so it must have been a floor board. I also got some nails that came out of a 200 year-old Maine farmhouse. They were blacksmith made during the original 13 colonies, probably from right after George Washington was about to retire. I treasured those.

Check out more of McGean's designs on his website and contact him through e-mail at
or call (602) 369-8795.

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