Hard Knock Life: Fogo Island Workshops Launches Second Furniture Collection

Seven years after launching its first furniture collection, Fogo Island Workshops (the furniture and craft arm of Shorefast, the social enterprise behind the Fogo Island Inn) is back with a second. Created by pairing international designers with local craftspeople, the collection includes benches, tables, chairs, and a handful of minimalist toys for children (curated by Finnish design consultant Anniina Koivu), blending international tastes with the traditional craft of Newfoundland’s remote outport communities — places that have been building boats and houses to withstand life on and beside the Atlantic Ocean for 400 years.

Fogo House, Adrien Rovero

Fogo Island Workshops was first set up to furnish the luxurious Fogo Island Inn, and the ethos behind its second collection remains much the same as its first: support local makers and keep traditional craft alive. This collection, however, is more tailored to everyday living. For instance, Swiss designer Anthony Guex’s yellow birch bench, stool, and chair — their horizontal slats reference the wooden stages that fishing boats are moored upon — are so simple and unadorned that they could mesh with nearly any interior. Japanese designer Wataru Kumano’s Pins Chair, on the other hand, is designed with durability top of mind.

fogo island workshops ring toss
Ring Toss Game, Adrien Rovero

Due to their isolation, Fogo Islanders are well versed in making things that last. So, if you’re tired of furniture that crumbles as soon as you get it home, rest assured that if Fogo Island Workshops’ furniture can handle the salt spray of life alongside the ocean, it can handle the spills and splashes of your kitchen or dining room.

Wataru Kumano

While all curated as part of a singular collection, there remains a fair bit of diversity within the offerings. Case in point, the chairs designed by Wataru Kumano and Anthony Guex. Wataru Kumano’s eye for traditionalist design is readily apparent in the execution of his Pins Chair, all without blending into the background or feeling remotely dated. Wataru is Tokyo-born, with a design education from Finland, however the inspiration for this chair is rooted in the island’s history — specifically stemming from a 1967 Fogo Island documentary that featured some of the island’s children playing with stilts.

Anthony Guex Chair
Armchair, Anthony Guex

In stark contrast, the rigid structure and hard lines of the Armchair designed by Laussane-based Anthony Guex feels almost institutional in its design. This purposeful hardness reflects the climate conditions of the island, leading to the type of seating that looks plenty capable of braving a storm. The chair — alongside the accompanying table and bench — also draw a more direct inspiration from Guex’ time spent on the island. Its plain plank construction is executed entirely in Canadian Birch, and pulls reference from the many mooring platforms and docks that dot the island’s coastline.

This latest intersection of international product design talent and local craftspeople of Fogo Island is a welcome one, and one that rings true to what the Shorefast foundation set out to accomplish from its inception in 2006. The manifesto of the foundation was to dedicate itself to building economic and cultural resilience on the island, and by continuing to support and collaborate with both budding and established designers from around the globe, the foundation’s reach will continue to grow accordingly.

Photography courtesy of Fogo Island Workshops, and Jane Brokenshire