His custom-made native timber tables are all the rage with Aucklanders but Will Worsp could scarcely work in more unpretentious surroundings – a farm shed across the causeway, or rickety footbridge if the tide’s in, on Raglan West’s Rangitaha Peninsula.
The 32 year old’s been making his stylish, functional tables there from reclaimed wood for about a year now, while also promoting his brand WRW & Co – William Rupert Worsp – with design stores in Auckland.
It’s a bit of a walk up the gravel road to the old, brown shed – or a short drive if the tide’s low enough and your vehicle high enough off the ground to negotiate the bumpy causeway.
Inside, the shed seems surprisingly large – cluttered on one side with tools of the trade and tables in various stages of construction, lighter and brighter on the other side of a dividing wall and more like a showroom with an office in one corner.
This was Raglan Surf Co’s surfboard-shaping factory until recently but Will’s given it over to straight and chunky rather than curved and smooth lines, crafting large dining tables which he says are a “simple design, not complex” and “focused on quality, form and function”.
He started off in a nearby woolshed he reckons was “cool” but terrible for building tables with “birds shitting, one power plug and nothing level”.
Now he’s moving on creatively in a way the one-time Te Akau farm boy could never have imagined.
His furniture with its trademark steel legs supporting table-tops of native timber – made from boards sometimes arranged widthways for effect – is attracting rave reviews in design magazines and on Facebook, which Will admits is a good marketing tool.
Says one satisfied customer: “I love that each piece is unique and it looks like the solid made-to-last kind of furniture that is well worth investing in.”
Will, at 32, has definitely stumbled upon – almost by accident – that niche market. His dining tables start from around $2000, somewhere between top and bottom of the market. Before WRW & Co there was either Studio Italia or Freedom Furniture, he explains.
Each piece is custom-made: the client chooses the timber with its natural scars and defects either from Will’s collection of old weatherboards, kauri, rimu and the like or from old wood of their own.
Will’s also open to their ideas over the finishes, colours, forms and dimensions.
Just the other weekend he drove an Auckland couple over the causeway in his old van to discuss a “quite large custom desk with nice, simple steel legs” he’s working on for them.
They’d arrived in their BMW but wisely left it on the other side. Ideally, Will says, he’d like a good Land Rover or similar to transport discerning clients across.
Will does all the “fiddly detail stuff” in the workshop, including putting on the steel legs he gets from other suppliers. “I finish them (the tables) up here,” he says, which means the hand-sanding, final surface coatings and other processes.
He has support in his venture from local German cabinetmakers Andreas Broring and Bjorn Ledwig.
They showed him the technicalities of making table-tops, and now let him use their large workshop filled with the bigger machinery – like a thicknesser or planer – for the early stages of the process.
So how did Will get into the venture? He returned from London at the end of 2012 and picked up on one of his earlier ideas during a trip back to Raglan where parents Simon and Rosie have a holiday home.
“I’d built a table for the bach,” he explains. At friends’ suggestion he then did a few more, an Auckland store took the tables on consignment and almost immediately he had orders to fill.
After that final overseas stint he returned to working with wood.
“I decided on tables because I love food and wine,” he says. And big tables because they’re a focal point, he adds. “l like the idea of having 10 people around a rugged, rough timber table.”
Now he has his first exhibition coming up at Allpress Gallery, behind Auckland’s Victoria Market, from June 30 to July 12. “It’s a way to showcase what I can do.”
He has about a dozen tables on the go plus a few bedside, coffee and consol tables “and maybe some shelving”.
There’s a heart rimu dining table, featuring old cattleyard rails, and a kauri slab table nearly three metres long with a bowtie key feature in the workmanship.
“I’ve always loved design and designing,” says Will. “And I always liked architecture … that creative side.”
But it’s been a long, roundabout journey to get to where he is now. Art school and working in the film industry as a set dresser and buyer were followed by years of travel adventures – much of it on superyachts – and then interior design work overseas.
He says his travels remain a major source of inspiration. “All this time at sea and weekends sifting around the stunning cities of Europe – it was great help to my design reference folder and research development progress.”