Fogo Island Workshops present a new collection of furniture curated by Anniina Koivu and featuring designs in wood by Anthony Guex, Adrien Rovero and Wataru Kumano. A remote island in canada’s Newfoundland, Fogo Island is described as ‘a place of hard rock and cold winds. It is not a place for whim and fancy or waste and indulgence. Living here means being resourceful: making things that work and last.’ 

The pieces reflect the harsh conditions and the spirit of adaptation that is typical of the land. ‘Things have a purpose and people have an everyday wisdom, which makes them incredibly practical, independent and real: there is a problem to solve, so you solve it,’ adds Koivu, a Finnish design critic, educator and curator who was invited to interpret the essence of Fogo Island through this furniture collection. 

Fogo Island Workshops furniture collection

Furniture by Anthony Guex for Fogo Island Inn including wooden armchair, table and bench
Kitchen furniture by Anthony Guex

The pieces were made using locally available materials and built in the local Fogo Island Workshops, originally established to furnish the Inn of the same name and a social enterprise part of Shorefast, a charity dedicated to building economic and cultural resiliency on Fogo Island. ‘The orientation towards international markets is not new, but actually very true to the island’s outport origins,’ says Zita Cobb, founder and CEO of Shorefast and innkeeper of the Fogo Island Inn. ‘We need to hold onto what matters, and to our culture; at the same time, we need to reach out, in order to belong to the world, but doing so requires an external eye, people who can help us to place ourselves in the broader context of the world of design. It’s about ‘holding on and reaching out.”’

Small wooden house game photographed on the stairs of a balcony on Fogo Island
Fogo House by Adrien Rovero

The result of Koivu’s curation is a series of ‘everyday furniture’ pieces that embody a sense of normality and are fit for contemporary urban living. Each designer was invited to visit Fogo Island ‘to look for inspiration in the islanders’ very distinct attitude towards objects, and their attitudes towards making these objects.’ The words “pragmatic, stubborn, sweet natured and subversively anarchistic” were part of the brief. Each designer was asked to focus on a specific room: the kitchen for Guex, children’s room for Rovero and entrance hall for Kumano – with more designs expected for bedroom, living room, bathroom, attic, pantry and more. 

Everyday furniture designs

Black wooden chair by Wataru Kumano for Fogo Island Inn
Pins Chair by Wataru Kumano

Anthony Guex has created a series of compact seats (kitchen chair, bench armchair and stool) crafted out of Canadian birch, using plain wooden planks inspired by the platforms used to moor fishing boats on the island.

At the other hand of the practicality scale, Adrien Rovero has created a playful set of objects that are part decorative pieces, part simple games. Inspired by the vernacular architecture of the island, ‘Fogo House’ is inspired by traditional salt boxes on the island, while the Ring Toss (made of birch and reclaimed fishing rope) nods to the location’s tradition of repurposing. 

Wooden ring toss toy by Adrien Rovero
Ring Toss by Adrien Rovero

Finally, Japanese designer Wataru Kumano created the ‘Pins’ chair, whose design is inspired by children playing with stilts on the island’s hills (seen on 1967 ‘Children of Fogo Island’ documentary by Colin Low). ‘The strength of human beings who enjoy living in beautiful and harsh environments is the inspiration: I want to express through my work that a unique environment, limited manufacturing methods and materials are positive and creative elements for designers,’ says the designer. 

‘We chose to work with people we know and like: being together in such an adventure “far away from far away”, you’d better get along with each other,’ explains Koivu. ‘We also carefully chose people with knowledge of wood working and textiles: their know-how in design production paired with the knowledge of the local makers brought about great teaching moments on both sides. And finally, we wanted to commit to lasting collaborations, to be able to tinker, improve and develop the collections over time.’ §