‘I didn’t study furniture making and design specifically, nor did it occur to me to make a career out of it until I was in the thick of it!’ recalls Hugh McCarthy. The young Melbournian graduated with a Bachelor of Design: Landscape Architecture and worked with several local firms, before joining an Italian-run furniture company in Prahran as a casual labourer in-between jobs.
He walked in thinking he would be standing around and sweeping, but his employers had other ideas. ‘My bosses Orio and Ottavio Randi put me to use right away – making sure the tools were sharp, the finish was top-notch, and that I was accurately cutting the timber… not my hands!’ he tells. ‘If you mastered these fundamental skills, you were going places!’
Evidently Hugh did, launching his brand, H.R.McCarthy in 2013. His most-recent range has been inspired by simple necessity – specifically, pieces he needed in his own home! These fine designs sport soft curves and gradual tapers. ‘I’m trying to make useful furniture that hopefully adds to the well-being of its user in some way,’ he explains.
According to Hugh, furniture design isn’t one of those industries you can Youtube your way into. ‘I’m very fortunate to have had insanely meticulous teachers and bosses before starting my own business,’ he tells, praising Lee Gratton, Peter Kruithof, Tomoyasu Kondoh – a dedicated Japanese cabinet maker that makes him want to lift his game! – as well as workshop buddies Scott McCormack and Ky Starcevich who he trusts for a second opinion. ‘Basically, I have always had a huge respect for anyone who makes things from scratch for a living, whether they be chefs, artists, carpenters…’ says Hugh. ‘I suppose after all this time, I’ve just wanted to be that kind of person!’
Hugh McCarthy has his sights set on opening a bricks-and-mortar store one day, but will continue crafting custom made products for clients until then. Find more on his website, here.