Fin Art Co. is Self-Made Modern
Talking shop with the self-taught furniture designers behind Denver’s up-and-coming dining scene
Photos by Mark Woolcott
The office of Fin Art Co. founders Ben Olson (left) and Rob McGowan feels more like a grown-up tree house than the bosses’ headquarters. Overlooking their 4,000-square-foot furniture workshop in Denver, the office is just big enough to hold a sawdust-covered vinyl loveseat, the first coffee table McGowan and Olson ever built, and a collection of well-loved sketchbooks. Pabst Blue Ribbon cans and crumpled papers sit atop a drafting table. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer a bird’s-eye view of a wall adorned with unfinished skateboards and a workspace crowded with wood scraps, power tools and airplane wings.
“We always joked that we’d stand up here and yell at everyone,” McGowan laughs, straining his voice over the metallic hum of table saws, “but we don’t do a whole lot of yelling around here. We’re pretty casual.”
Working alongside a team of four craftsmen (with nicknames like “Air-Bear” and “A-Tom”), McGowan and Olson custom-build modern dining tables, chairs, credenzas, barstools and light fixtures that delicately balance reclaimed with refined. With no formal training in furniture design, these Vail Valley natives started the company as a passion project operating out of a garage.
Olson plans out his designs with old-school pencil and paper rather than digital renderings; this sketch was the beginning stages of a community table for Blueprint Bar in Capitol Hill.
“We knew we wanted to do something—whether it was a restaurant or a clothing store or a sandwich shop,” Olson says. “We started making furniture for fun with just a handsaw and a drill, and eventually it worked out.”
The duo’s self-taught technique has allowed them to experiment with different construction methods and materials. With basic tools, they’ve made pieces out of oak from semi-truck beds, aluminum from defunct airplanes and the original iron pillars from Union Station’s facade. From sketching to staining, each phase of the design process is meticulously completed by hand, resulting in a one-of-a-kind product.
The Lola End Table ($850) and Fausto Cafe Chair ($250) sit atop the Lola Credenza ($2,400). All three pieces are part of Fin Art’s One Collection, available online.
“It’s not like we have a machine set up where you hit a button and out spits a credenza,” McGowan says. “That’s the fun part about having a handmade-furniture shop—everything can be a little different. It’s personal and thought about and cared for every step of the way.”
Fausto Cafe Chair ($250) and Fausto Stool ($350)
Fin Art Co. has come a long way from tinkering in the garage: The company released a 13-piece collection in 2015, and their designs can be found in a slew of Denver’s front-running bars and restaurants, including Linger, Bar Fausto, Old Major and Dos Santos. But McGowan and Olson still run the company with a laid-back attitude and a focus on hard work, innovative ideas and friendship.
Leather pulls sourced from Tandy Leather in Denver adorn a variety of pieces in the One Collection.
“You’re whooped after a day of being on your feet and lifting heavy tools,” McGowan says. “But it’s fun stuff. These guys are all our friends, and being around people who enjoy what they do really motivates us.”
See more at finartco.com.