An accidental carpenter, Mo Shabani’s aptitude for spatial design has taken him around the world, transforming retail and residential spaces through his wood-based fixtures.
“I kind of stumbled into furniture design. I was looking for a job one summer and started working on a construction site as a labourer, and it went from there. On the construction site I learned carpentry, then I moved to London and worked for Urban Outfitters, where I learned to create displays and merchandise the stores.”
Setting up his own studio in Philadelphia and now Vancouver, the simplicity of Mo’s designs is what makes them most unique: the playful interchangement of wood grains, subtle accents of colour and metal studs, and exploratory use of empty space.
“Unlike a plastic, you can’t do anything you want with wood, you have to cut it a certain way and work with the wood to get it to do what you want.”
“I’m drawn to most natural materials, whether they’re wood, leather or metal. Unlike a plastic, you can’t do anything you want with wood, you have to cut it a certain way and work with the wood to get it to do what you want. I mostly work with hardwoods, and primarily local ones. When I was living in Philadelphia we used a lot of Pennsylvania hardwoods, like walnut, cherry, and oak.”
On inspiration, from Bauhaus to Sci-Fi
“I take inspiration from film, from fashion, from architecture – really just documenting anything that’s interesting. The Bauhaus movement is really cool, and I like Art Deco architecture – I take a lot of influence from that. I also really like the aesthetics in Sci-Fi films – something about that world and trying to figure out what the future looks like. We get furniture that’s been done; like at the moment, everyone is really caught up in mid-century modern and all the classic shapes, but we already did that 60 to 70 years ago. What do people want to put in their homes now, what do they want in their spaces moving forward.”
“…the aesthetics in Sci-Fi films – something about that world and trying to figure out what the future looks like.”
On his favourite creations
“We’ve been scheming about creating a bent wood chandelier – I’m excited for that. And in the past I did a metal chair with a wooden seat and back – that was fun to make. It was sort of a project in deconstruction and we tried to remove as much of the material as we could, so we ended up with less than what you would normally get in a chair, but it worked because it was all welded metal.”
Mo Shabani is a Vancouver-based self-taught carpenter and furniture designer, and one-half of Manner Studio, a multi-disciplinary workshop that specializes in the design and build of retail spaces.