My idea of heaven is to be surrounded by green plants,” says designer Will Massie of McKinnon and Harris, which has been furnishing the outdoor rooms of discerning homeowners since 1991. The company’s name pays homage to Massie’s grandmothers—Ella Wyatt McKinnon Massie and Annie Scott Harris Robertson—both avid gardeners, and in whose gardens he spent many happy times growing up.
It was after reading Marsha Sinetar’s Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow while on a skiing trip that Massie decided to leave his job in banking to follow his dream of becoming a furniture designer. He set up the “estate, garden, and yacht” furniture company with his sister Anne Harris Massie.
“That book really inspired me to leave my finance job and pursue my love for building and making beautiful things,” says Massie. “The company grew out of our passion for wanting to build things inspired by nature that last and endure.”
The pair made their debut with a collection based on traditional English garden furniture. “We started this business with the aim of designing a timeless aesthetic that referenced classical furniture, but that was transitional and of heirloom quality, to be enjoyed by generations, resisting the whims of trends and the passage of time. Every piece needed to be a design chameleon in that it could fit a traditional setting as well as in a modern, contemporary one.”
For the Richmond, Virginia-based company’s 30th anniversary last year Massie and his team of craftspeople reimagined three of his favorite heritage pieces: the Benedict badminton bench, the Virginia bench with Gothic back, and the Dr. Johnson tennis umpire chair.
The idea of domestic outdoor rooms was in its infancy when McKinnon and Harris started out, but it was always Massie’s goal to elevate outdoor living spaces to be equal to the interior. “Our own love of the landscape grew out of our childhood experiences and making furniture for the garden is a natural extension.”
Massie says he and Anne, who recently stepped away from the business to concentrate on her painting practice, grew up “in a house filled with inherited family heirlooms, beautiful pieces of furniture collected over time,” and he wants the chairs, tables, benches, and more that McKinnon and Harris makes to be equally treasured for a long time. The company even offers a designer “spa treatment” service so owners can send their furniture back to the workshop to get everything refreshed and looking brand new.
And while most admirers of the company would never dream of trading in their McKinnon and Harris pieces, they do sometimes change hands. “We sometimes see our clients selling McKinnon and Harris furniture with a home, and we recognize that the second-hand market for our furniture is a testament to how it retains its beauty and value. That’s really the ultimate compliment.”
Banner: The deCamp Lune Sofa and Club Chairs. Courtesy: McKinnon and Harris