Gowanus Furniture Co. was founded in 2011 by Pete Raho to solve the problems endemic to small apartments - and have a good time doing it. We shouldn't live with disposable furniture. We should live with things we want to live with. We can have well-designed, locally-made products that are a good value and will last through successive moves to new homes.
The inaugural line, released Spring 2011, consists of cutting boards that are more than just something to help cut an onion. The line features end grain and long grain boards monogrammed via Morse code - after all, for nearly 170 years Morse code has been starting conversations and bringing people together, and dinner should do the same thing. He also developed cutting boards that rest on top of the stove or sink to make use of unused space. Cutting boards include mounting hardware for wall storage.
He gave a talk at TEDxGowanus January 2014, with his thoughts on a viable model for urban manufacturing in the 21st century, and was selected as one of Mount Gay Rum's Original Spirits in the fall of that year.
He's more flashlight than laser.
Prior to starting Gowanus Furniture Co., he worked in a leading art auction house for a number of years in a number of roles, always straddling the line between business and art. He likes making stuff, photography, motorcycles, roasting meats, walking long distances, and spending time in the woods. He's also an Eagle Scout.
A bit about the name:
Pete lives and works in Gowanus and has for years. So, there you go. But it's more than that.
Gowanus is an interesting area. Surrounding a canal nearly as old as Morse code (the canal's present dimensions date from around 1869), and surrounded by some of Brooklyn's most expensive neighborhoods, the area known as Gowanus has seen it all from its early days near the Gowanes Creek through industrialization, development, decay, and revitalization. It's pretty much always been there, though - it's nothing new and not something to be "discovered". Like any neighborhood, there will always be people who say its best days were 10 years before you got there.
At this very moment, it's in the midst of another transition. With the Superfund designation, major residential development seems off the radar for the time being, and artists and designers and manufacturers continue to move into the area (as they have for decades - e.g Tom Otterness, Lisa Yuskavage). And now more bars and restaurants. And cute stores.
But it's much more than that. The artists and designers and manufacturers who have been here for decades, as well as the new arrivals, all make stuff. Great stuff. With little pretense.
It's not much of a scene.
There is also a tension between the new and old, the industrial and the organic, and the forces of nature and industry. Slowly the canal that defines the area is getting healthier and coming back to life, and will continue to do so over time. Meanwhile there are fewer and fewer vacant warehouses - all of them have stuff going on. At this moment, everything seems to be moving in the right direction. Like anywhere, there's a strain between the old and new, and the future has yet to be written, but things are moving upward.
So it's also all about contrast. Not bombast. Not birds either. The industrial and the organic. Useful pieces celebrating the harmony of wood and metal. Cherry and copper. Creative businesses.
Exploring that middle space.