We are a third generation family business founded in Wellington in 1948 by Joe W. Backhouse.
Joe was responsible for producing some of New Zealand’s most adored mid-century modern furniture which is still being used and admired today by new generations of New Zealander’s.
As a teenager he would happily spend hours in his home basement designing, making and crafting wooden objects. As a college student in the 1940’s he stepped into tutoring his wood working class when his teacher suddenly fell ill. He began his cabinet making apprenticeship as soon as he left college and in 1948 established his own factory and furniture business, based in Alpha St in central Wellington, it was named J.W. Backhouse Ltd.
Being both a skilled furniture designer as well as cabinetmaker was a great combination when creating firniture designs for the Backhouse factory to produce. Joe also made several trips to Europe and Denmark in the 1960s, 70s and 80s to stay ahead of the trends in furniture design and meet some of his favourite makers and designers.
A highlight was meeting legendary Danish designer Finn Juhl and Englishman Charles France, owner of France & Son, one of Denmark’s largest furniture producers. This encounter likely led to the production of France & Son furniture by Backhouse in New Zealand, as harsh government restrictions prevented it from being imported.
By the mid 1960’s Backhouse had established itself as the premium contemporary furniture maker in New Zealand. Furniture from Backhouse was in most of the large corporate boardrooms throughout the country and retailed in the best stores, including high end department stores like Kirkcaldie & Stains in Wellington and Smith & Caughey in Auckland.
A distinguishing feature of Backhouse furniture was the incredibly high level of cabinetry, rivalling many of the international makers. Also, the use of teak when most New Zealand makers preferred the more accessible and affordable Sepele Mahogany. Occasionally Backhouse even did deluxe custom commissions in Palisander Rosewood.
Joe Backhouse created a legacy of quality furniture in New Zealand, today it is highly coveted by a new generation of discerning customers who appreciate quality, heritage and longevity.