In the interior design field, custom designed furniture is one of the most important features of any interior design project. At Duet Design Group, we have found a gem of a furniture maker in Martin Shea. He and his craftsman at Martin Shea Millwork Co. have built some of our greatest custom pieces.
We recently stopped by his shop in one of the oldest buildings in Denver. The music was playing (classic rock), not surprising given the mural of Bob Dylan on an old window. There were custom doors, a large cabinet, kitchen cabinets, and fine furniture, all in production, created by a group of talented woodworkers and finishers.
Your workshop has an amazing history in Denver. Tell me about it!
In 1976 we built a bar in the same space that Euclid Hall currently has. I then became involved in Dana Crawford’s renovation of Larimer Square after that. Charles Calloway hired me to build the lobby of the Oxford Hotel, which led to many downtown restaurants and bars.
Custom Shelving commissioned by Duet Design Group
What is your favorite thing to build?
We have a wide diversity of skills. I feel rather than what we are building the more relevant important factor is who we are working with. Projects are like Broadway plays. The client, the designers and all involved in the production are so important. Every curtain rise is new.
What is your favorite species of wood to work with?
My favorite species are all of the exotics. Exotic veneers are the fine jewels of wood. The best 10% of all wood is made into veneer. Veneering has been the highest skill in woodworking since the time of the craftsmen in 17th century France and England. The beauty of light playing in wood and the elegance of classic design are special organic
qualities of woodwork.
Furniture making is an art. What do you love about your creative trade?
I love the durability of furniture. For many years we have offered a 300 year guarantee on our work only because we feel that furniture should be built well enough to last. It enhances lives. It lets us have an identity that is transportable. It weaves a connecting thread between generations.
The interior design world is taking notice of the value of handmade, artisan furniture. Can you talk a little bit about that movement?
All I have ever known is handmade furniture because my dad sold wood for 40 years and old furniture was what our family valued. It is exciting that this value is becoming more predominant now. Because of the rapidity with which life changes custom furniture provides living spaces that are enduring and soothing.
Custom dining room table commissioned by Duet Design Group
Custom dining table top commissioned by Duet Design Group
In your words, what makes Colorado such an amazing place to live?
The beautiful plains, the majestic mountains and friendly, creative people are the best parts of this state.
Five things you cannot live without?
My wife and family, dogs, working with my hands, fresh air and wide open space.
What do you do in your free time?
I love reading about politics and history. I am currently taking an astronomy course at DU. Tonight I saw the 4 moons of Jupiter that Galileo saw! I love to ski and ride bicycles.