The Armchair & Project

“I grew up immersed in craftsmanship, surrounded by well designed and functional furniture deeply rooted in the Scandinavian tradition. My father, Joe Backhouse, began tinkering with furniture making as a teenager and became an apprentice cabinet maker on leaving college. Within three years he was running his own furniture business in Alpha Street, just off Courtenay Place, Wellington. It was the late 1940’s and the modernist aesthetic was sweeping the world.

My earliest memories are of my father drawing designs at his desk and making prototypes for customers.
My father made several trips to Europe in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. A highlight was meeting Charles France and Finn Juhl in Copenhagen in 1968. Fascinated and enthralled by the tenements of Scandinavian design, he carved out a reputation for beautifully made simple and functional design.

“He took pride in all his works which were handcrafted lathe turned and made from Teak, Mahogany and Rosewood”


Many of his pieces are held in furniture collections by 2nd generation caretakers and still loved and used every day.

Sadly Dad passed away last year and it gave me pause to think about Dad’s heritage and his contribution to the New Zealand furniture industry. He believed in making quality design and he never wavered from the modern aesthetic nor his love of timber.

The JWB chair is a new design paying homage to Dad’s legacy. It is a modern timber chair, rich in heritage but made with modern machinery. It’s about honesty and integrity in design. Dad would have approved.

“We wanted to reference the aesthetic of the furniture pieces created by Joe without directly recreating the previous mid 20th century designs”

Through the use of state of the art technology we are able to reinterpret his mid-century design aesthetic with a contemporary feel. Revisiting many of the old designs and drawings we were struck by the longevity of his designs and forms and how relevant many of the products are today. Joe had a love of timber, especially mahogany, rosewood and teak so it was an obvious choice to manufacture the ‘JWB’ out of solid timber including ash, oak and sapele mahogany.

The ‘JWB’ armchair is the beginning of a new collection, 100% made in New Zealand.

Gary Backhouse

JWB Armchair Designed by John Dinsdale (BDes) and Gary Backhouse 2016.

Click here to view more details on the JWB Armchair