– Words by Angela Cowan Photographs by Lia Crowe
Step inside Wolf & Porter’s bright showroom in Kelowna and chances are you’ll immediately want to run your fingers over the intricately crafted tables on display. Expertly crafted from heritage and sustainably sourced woods and resins, and with a variety of metal legs and accents, these bespoke creations are the pinnacle of quality, capable of leaning into the practical. or luxury to meet the needs of their customers.
Wolf & Porter is the collaboration between Harvey Bremner and Chris Aalbers, who started the company just over a year ago and did things a little differently than expected.
“We spent a lot of time – the first four or five months – identifying the right suppliers and the right processes to make sure from the start that everything we produced was on par with products coming from New York or LA,” Harvey said.
The two were already friends when they both recognized a hole in the high-end furniture market, and the blend of Chris’s wealth of exceptional carpentry skills and Harvey’s decades of business and marketing savvy seemed like a ideal cooperation.
“Knowing Chris and the quality of his work, and me and my background in marketing and sales, it seemed like the perfect fit,” says Harvey.
The pair took a big step forward from day one, immediately securing the largest premises they could find and investing heavily initially, rather than starting as a small operation and seeing how it went.
“We treated it more like an IT startup,” says Harvey, who has worked with various big tech companies in Silicon Valley. “They talk a lot about having the ability to scale, whether you can scale there.”
Now, less than six months after opening to the public, Wolf & Porter has established relationships with customers across North America and is well on its way to competing with some of the biggest names in furniture design.
Harvey describes Wolf & Porter as “high-end yet accessible”, and a quick look at their online store yields a wonderful range of tables, including: The Arundel, a remarkable coffee table made with spalted maple , cradling a river of resin-black smoke that sells for $3,250; the $5,995 art installation/coffee table The Bruin, crafted from rich walnut and left in its natural, curvy border; and The Belgravia, a spectacular piece created from a single slab of sustainable African teak that costs a few bucks under $24,000.
Another table that instantly catches the eye is The Eton, a visually intricate piece crafted from Mappa burl (sourced from European poplars), one of the best hardwood choices for high-end furniture. The mix of light and darker shades under a warm, burnished finish is gorgeous, and it would be a gorgeous addition to almost any room.
But the real gem of Wolf & Porter is its bespoke process, where customers can personalize their own products.
“As soon as people realize that we can custom-build something for them, that’s immediately what they want,” says Harvey. “Then it becomes multi-generational, because there’s an emotional quotient there.”
As he explains, “If you go back 20 or 30 years, people’s tables were, on the whole, very well done. People became attached to these pieces because they had belonged to their parents or their grandparents and memories had been created around them, they had stories to tell. As soon as Wolf & Porter customers understand that they can not only get a high-quality table, but also a table that they themselves had a hand in designing, it brings that emotional connection back to the process.
To satisfy this demand, Wolf & Porter designed a set of parameters that anyone can navigate, choosing specific woods, leg shape and material, accents and more.
“Every table that comes out of this customizable table process is unique,” says Harvey. “You could make two of them back to back with the same materials and they would look completely different, with their own characteristics.”
Each wood has a distinct personality, some leaning more towards classic or contemporary, some subtle or avant-garde in their design and form. The company also accepts selected clients for highly personalized, high-end artistic pieces. An 11-foot-long table in progress, for example, incorporated one-of-a-kind tree-like legs, with long benches inlaid with the client’s logo.
Ultimately, the entire Wolf & Porter philosophy is to create a unique and memorable customer experience while delivering an impeccably crafted product. With big-box stores, customers don’t have a chance to really engage with a piece, Harvey says. They walk in, choose a table and wait for it to be delivered.
“We believe the journey begins long before the day of delivery,” he explains. “Every decision we make within the company is about the customer experience. The quality of the wood, the design, the interaction with me and the showroom team. Every step the table goes through, the customer receives a email telling them where the process is at. It’s a journey they’re going through with us. And once it’s delivered with white gloves into their home, they start to experience it on their own. That experience and this trip make a difference.
Story reprinted with kind permission from Boulevard Magazine, a publication of Black Press Media
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