While growing up in sunny San Diego, Calif., furnituremaker Lawrence Newman was frequently surrounded by wood, metal and tools. “My grandfather was a general contractor, so I spent a lot of time as a kid on his project sites,” he says. “I’d take things apart and try to get all the pieces back in order. Once I even took my grandfather’s chainsaw apart and put it back together, and it still worked.”
On his grandfather’s construction sites, Newman also got his first taste of building things out of leftover and scrap materials. “There was a lot of project shrapnel in the boneyard, which is where all the excess material on a construction site ends up,” he says. “All these pieces of wood and metal and debris amazed me, and I started making all sorts of things. I’d make crazy crosses and adorn them with metal.”
At design school in San Diego, Newman specialized in apparel design and excelled in pattern-making, a skill he put to use when he decided, six years ago, to start building furniture full-time. “I just wanted to be building things,” he says. “When I want to build something, I make a quick design of how to put it together, and that’s where the pattern-making comes in. I’m constantly making patterns to see how something would look.”
Newman moved to Portland in 2003 and works out of his garage in Southeast Portland. He makes most of his furniture out of bamboo plywood, salvaged wood and metal. “I really like to use heavy architectural hardware,” he says. “Both wood and metal are strong and together they can make a statement. What I like about making furniture is that I have a vision in my head and in a relatively short amount of time, I can build something that will last longer than me.” The 16½-inch-tall, 25-inch-deep and 38-inch-long coffee table (left) is made from 3½-inch steel angle iron, bamboo plywood and padouk. It costs $1,400.
Contact furnituremaker Lawrence Newman at 971-533-9091 or via his website at newmanmade.com. Some of his pieces can be seen at Ease (4823 S.E. Division St., 503-206-4372) in Portland.