Andrew Montgomery can’t remember a time when he wasn’t interested in building. In fact, he claims he built his first chair when he was five years old. “It was this tiny little armchair made out of pine wood, with a small square seat. Ever since I made that chair, I’ve always had this desire to create, design, and build things with my hands.” A graduate of Virginia Tech’s architecture program and currently a design associate for Spatial Affairs Bureau, Montgomery grew up surrounded by builders. “Both my grandfathers did woodworking and built houses. And my dad always had a pile of wood, and nails, hammers and saws around, so when I was growing up I was just constantly building things.”
Two years ago, when he and his wife, Tara, decided to rent a 1910 house in Downtown Charlottesville, he naturally fell in love with the characteristics inherent in an old space: original wood floors, exposed pipes, even the radiators. “I love the detailing of the gold radiators. It’s just fun. At first, when I saw the landlord spray painting them gold, I thought ‘what is this guy doing?’ but now I think it’s awesome and unique.”
While the house is old, the décor is new. And most of it has been built by Montgomery himself. His furniture marries form and function beautifully. Think clean lines, special materials, and hidden details, which is his specialty.
The living/family room aims to be “clean and simple.” Aside from the chairs and lights that Montgomery built himself, there’s a modern gray sofa, a baby blue Eames rocker and a contemporary metal shelving unit attached to the wall. Montgomery’s favorite element, however, is the coffee table he built his wife. “I used wood that was cut down from my grandfather’s property, so it has significance to it.”
Montgomery appreciates this quirky abode, especially since his wife helps add warmth to the space. Tara, a talented jewelry maker, is quite can-do herself, and it was her idea to paint the room a cool blue, as well as to make the oversized wire pendent lamp out of clothespins. “I’m grateful for Tara, because she has a great sense of color and style that I don’t have.”—Cate West Zahl
“What I try to do with my furniture is to design it so that no details are showing. The funny thing about that is that it almost takes more details, time, and effort to actually achieve this effect! My personal aesthetic is to not express the way the materials have been joined together.
“I can never name my pieces. I could never give a name to my artwork either. I think what I love about chairs, and furniture…is that it interacts with people. People create their own memories and associations with that object. So I don’t want to name it something that boxes the person into thinking about it in a certain way. I love that this inanimate thing can actually connect with people.
“I have so many ideas in my head, there’s a constant stream of possible items I could make, there’s just not enough time to make them all! It’s an amazing experience to have an idea, design this idea, and then make it. You are creating an object that didn’t exist in the world and wouldn’t exist, if you hadn’t thought it up. It’s incredibly satisfying.
“So in high school, I started taking sculpture and taught myself how to carve wood. I would do it on my own, not even in class. I started carving busts and more sculptural items. Even in college I would have a pile of wood in my room; there would be wood chips everywhere. It was always something I was doing in my spare time.
“Furniture is just another scale of architecture, it’s simply another opportunity to be expressive and creative, but on a smaller scale. It’s actually harder because with a house, you have more opportunities to make your mark in the details. With a chair, it’s limited.
“There is an apparent chaotic order to our existence, but in actuality, I believe there is an order to it that we simply can’t comprehend. A lot of my architecture reflects this; there are no square walls, there are crazy forms that interact with each other. This is my way of expressing the disorder we experience within life.”