In an earlier post I mentioned how a furniture designer by the name of Todd Marckese played a key role in finding a client for the initial prototype of the Kidney Shaped Desk.
I first met Todd while exhibiting at the Chicago Design Show in 1998. At the time he was principal of Marckese Design Studio in Orlando, Florida. His client list was prestigious and his work was recognized in many design publications including Architectural Digest, Florida Design and Showboats International.
Todd was exploring the idea of branding his own furniture collection, and he asked if I might be interested in doing product development and prototyping with him. We exchanged business cards, but it would be almost 5 years before we spoke again.
When he called in the summer of 2003, Todd asked if I remembered our conversation in Chicago. I did, largely because of the unusual business card he left behind. Measuring just over 2 inches square this card stuck out both literally and figuratively. Todd laughed at my observation, pointing out that it was necessary to be different in order to be remembered.
Todd went on to say that he was working on an upscale residence and the project required many unique pieces of custom furniture. One of the pieces he required was a desk, but it came with the proviso that his clients had strong holistic inclinations and, therefore, a conventional desk would not work. This, ultimately, laid the groundwork for the Kidney Shaped Desk making the transition from concept to reality.
In the ensuing months Todd and I developed a symbiotic working relationship as we worked together on several custom furniture pieces for this particular project. In tandem with this we also began to discuss his dream of creating his own furniture collection. Through our discussions I got the distinct impression that Todd's greatest passion was designing furniture. He mentioned several times how much he disliked shopping for fabrics, flooring and wall treatments, but as an interior designer this was the proverbial necessary evil for him to have projects that also allowed him to design actual furniture.
It was during one of our lengthy conversations about design and following one's bliss that I made reference to an inspirational book entitled "This Time I Dance", by Tama J. Kieves. In the book there is a quote made by Tama that goes something like this:
"If you're this successful doing something you don't love, just imagine how successful you could be doing something you do love."
After a long pause Todd suddenly said, "That's it, man; I'm doing it."
"Doing what?" I asked.
"The furniture collection. I'm doing it. I'm not putting it off any more."
What was so shocking about his announcement was not that he had decided to move forward with making his collection, but that he was going to devote his full time and energy to it. And when I say he was committing to it full time, that meant he had simultaneously decided to shut down his flourishing interior design business in the fearless pursuit of his dream.
Up until this point the bulk of the correspondence between us had been via fax, email, or phone. In late December Todd flew up from Orlando to visit my shop for the first time. I was more than a little surprised to see him showing up in the middle of a Canadian winter wearing little more than open toe sandals.
"I always wear sandals" proclaimed Todd "No matter what."
One morning as we were driving up to my shop we came upon a car stuck in the deep snow of a ditch. I pulled over to give the guy a hand getting out, assuming that Todd (who was barefoot in his sandals) would simply wait in the truck. Todd was having none of that, and within seconds he too was knee deep in snow helping me push the guy out.
When we arrived at the shop Todd was like a kid in a candy store. Wide eyed and excited there were several times when he simply wandered off to follow his curiousity, and I'd have no idea where he was until I heard his booming voice calling out "Oohhhh Mannnn, that is soooo Coool!!!" over something incredible he had come across. We had several productive days during that visit as we worked out the details of the prototypes for his furniture collection.
In the evenings Teresa and I would have Todd over to the house for dinner, after which Todd and I would spend several more hours talking about furniture and design over beer. Invariably it would be Boddingtons or Guinness for me, while Todd's preference was for an English ale called Old Speckled Hen.
By February Todd's prototypes were well under way, and he had arranged to have the pieces photographed with an avant-garde photographer by the name of Walter Singh.
In addition to finishing up his remaining commissions and winding down his interior design business at the same time, Todd ended up scheduling himself for a long awaited surgery.
On Saturday February 28th Todd was at home recovering from the surgery, and we were having a lengthy phone discussion to review the status of his furniture pieces. At one point he unnerved me by saying "Aw Man, I'm dying."
"Don't put that out there." I remember saying. "What are you talking about anyway?"
"The pain" he lamented "It's killing me."
That ended up being the last time I ever spoke with Todd, because in the early hours of the following morning he passed away in his sleep. He died at the young age of 38, leaving behind his lovely wife Melissa, and two beautiful children: Landon and Ireland.
Although I had only gotten to know Todd over the previous few months, his passing affected me deeply. Without question Todd was an extremely talented designer who was also a visionary in many ways. But more than that he was an original; one who was both fearless and big hearted as an individual, and who absolutely adored his wife and children.
If there was any solace to come out of his passing it came from something Melissa said a few weeks after Todd died. She told me that in all the years she had known him she had never seen Todd as happy as he was in the last few months of his life as he was finally pursuing his dream. That made me all the more pleased with the decision I had already made to finish off his furniture pieces, so his dream could come to reality.
The images that follow are the first pieces Todd designed for his furniture collection. Todd carefully selected all wood grains and tones to draw emotion and consistency throughout the collection, creating a unique line that not only captures the eye artistically, but in a manner that is environmentally conscious as well. Never forgetting his roots, each piece is the namesake of beloved people, locations and memorable events from his home state, Michigan.
Baroda Cocktail Table: 48" dia x 18" high, in Zebrawood.
Hinchman End Table: 24" x 24" x 26-1/4" high, finished in Jacobean Oak.
Hinchman Throw Table: 17-1/2" dia. x 20" high, finished in Jacobean Oak.
Hinchman Console: 54" x 15" x 32-1/2" high, finished in Jacobean Oak with natural Curly English Sycamore top.
Hinchman Desk: 60" x 30" x 30-3/8" high, finished in Jacobean Oak with black Tuscany leather inset top.
Hinchman Desk: Rear View
Lakeshore Screen: 4 panels each measuring 95" high x 19-1/2" wide, finished in ebonized oak with Damask strapping.
Lakeshore Mirror: 95" high x 19-1/2" wide x 1-3/4" thick, finished in Ebonized Oak.
Tiscornia Coffee Table: 60" long x 16" wide x 17" high, finished in Jacobean Oak.
Landon Desk: 84" long x 26" wide x 30" high, finished in Mappa Burl with inset of black Tuscany leather.
Landon Desk: Rear View