This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

Hugh McCarthy

Furniture

This afternoon we meet Brunswick-based furniture designer Hugh McCarthy.

The resourceful and refreshingly real craftsman shares new seating designs from his H.R.McCarthy brand.

4th May, 2017

Furniture designer Hugh McCarthy in his Brunswick studio. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

The Barton Chair No.1 in one of Hugh’s favourite materials: dark stained U.S. Oak. ‘It has interesting grain and it holds stains and colours in a nice way,’ tells the furniture maker, who’s a fan of rummaging the timber yard in search of the perfect combinations. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Pieces by Hugh, including Smith Bar Stools in U.S. Oak and Walnut (left), Barton Chair No.2 in natural U.S. Oak (Middle), Barton Chair No.1 in stained U.S. Oak (Right). Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

‘Furniture making and joinery takes hours of practice and requires you to manufacture without second guessing yourself, and the only way to become efficient with tools and machinery is to keep having a go at it,’ he explains. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

‘A chair should be comfortable and sturdy especially when you’re feeling a little fragile!’ says Hugh. His Millane Reading Chair in U.S. Oak and also featuring wool blend fabric (right). Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

The Piper Side Table in U.S. Oak. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Hugh at work in his Brunswick studio. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

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.

Similar Stories

Studio Visit

The Graduate Designer Pushing The Limits Of Traditional Furniture Design

Inside the Coburg North workshop of Brigitte Owers-Buccianti, aka Real Non-Real!

Shopping

Nau Releases 2021 Australian-Made Furniture Collection

Cult’s in-house Australian-made furniture and lighting brand Nau releases its latest collection.

TDF Design Awards

The Most Fabulous New Furniture Designs In The TDF + Laminex Design Awards 2021

There is no shortage of innovation and inspiration from the Furniture Design finalists In The TDF + Laminex Design Awards!

This Week

Homes

A Historic Melbourne Apartment With Artful, Lived-In Interiors

Interior designer Leigh Ellwood invites us inside her 1930s Beverley Hills apartment in South Yarra.
Lucy Feagins
  13 hours ago

Interiors

A Majestic Garden House That Transcends Aesthetics

The landscape is the mesmerising star of the show in Garden House by Arent&Pyke and Polly Harbison Design.

Father's Day Favourites

Find The Perfect Book For Dad With 20% Off From Hardie Grant Publishing!

From the best barbecuing recipes to epic travel inspiration, you'll find the perfect book for dad in our edit of Hardie Grant Publishing's f...
Christina Karras
  5 hours ago

Father's Day Favourites

Give Dad A Dose Of (Stylish) Wanderlust With Bespoke Luggage From July!

Gift dad bespoke luggage from our favourite travel brand July and receive a complimentary personalised luggage tag worth $85!

News

Bid On Spectacular Contemporary Art From Australia's Best At The IMA's Benefit Auction!

Snap up works from award-winning artists thanks to the Institute of Modern Art Brisbane’s glamorous annual gala and online auction!
Christina Karras

Stays

A Serene Architectural Getaway Overlooking Vineyards In Central Victoria

Barfold Estate's new boutique accommodation is the best kept secret in the Heathcote / Kyneton region – for now!

Shopping

Kip&Co Team Up With Robert Gordon For A Fun-Filled Ceramic Range

The loveable local brands have created a new playful ceramics collection, bringing prints and colour to range of hand-crafted vases!
Christina Karras

On The Market

For Sale: An Ultimate Sydney Dream Home, With Waterfront Views

This new Balmain family home has it all - a resort-style backyard, swimming pool, gym, steam room, home theatre, and it's for sale!
Christina Karras

Interiors

How This First-Time Renovator Transformed Her Pint-Sized Melbourne Apartment

A tiny renovation (34 square metres, to be precise) – that packs a big punch!

Father's Day Favourites

Announcing The Design Files Father's Day Favourites 2022!

Find the best gifts for dad and score special deals with our Father's Day Favourites online shopping event!

News

Shop Dreamy Pastel Landscapes In Collection III From ‘Palette by Jono Fleming’

Introducing interior stylist Jono Fleming’s third art collaboration with Sicilian-Australian artist Chanel Sohier.
Christina Karras

News

Nicole Lawrence Studio And Curio Practice Pop Up In Sydney

The two rising design stars open the doors to their week-long shop and showroom in Paddington.

News

Local Chef Ella Mittas' First Cookbook Brings Us A Taste Of The Mediterranean

The Greek-Australian chef shares her most delicious recipes and personal essays in Ela! Ela! – To Turkey and Greece, Then Home.
Christina Karras

Father's Day Favourites

Shop Luxurious Outdoor Essentials For Dad With 20% Off The Grampians Goods Co.

This one is for the dads who love camping, picnics, and a hot cocoa by the fire! We've got 20% off The Grampian Goods Co.!
Christina Karras

At Home With Sheridan

The Minimalist Inner-City Sanctuary Of Skincare Guru James Vivian + Ben Esakoff

A Prahran Edwardian cottage meets a minimalist architectural addition, with exposed materials, an impressive art collection, and textured Sh...

Similar Stories

Studio Visit

The Graduate Designer Pushing The Limits Of Traditional Furniture Design

Inside the Coburg North workshop of Brigitte Owers-Buccianti, aka Real Non-Real!

Shopping

Nau Releases 2021 Australian-Made Furniture Collection

Cult’s in-house Australian-made furniture and lighting brand Nau releases its latest collection.

TDF Design Awards

The Most Fabulous New Furniture Designs In The TDF + Laminex Design Awards 2021

There is no shortage of innovation and inspiration from the Furniture Design finalists In The TDF + Laminex Design Awards!

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net