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Publication Date: 2015-12-11

Why It's Worth It

Behind the Design: The Making of McKinnon and Harris' Handcrafted Outdoor Furniture

Working almost exclusively in aluminum, luxury performance outdoor furniture maker McKinnon and Harris uses a unique blend of ancient metalworking techniques and cutting edge technology to produce furniture of unparalleled quality and style. Here, we take a look inside their Virginia workshop to see their craftsmanship firsthand.

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Above: Otey and Hepplewhite Collections

McKinnon and Harris is at its core a family company. Founded by brother and sister William McKinnon Massie and Annie Harris Massie and named after their grandmothers, the company was inspired by a childhood spent in beautiful family gardens, an atmosphere of permanence and history.

Above: duVal and Wyatt collections

Richmond, Virginia, the location of company headquarters and workshop, has been influential on the development of the company. Virginia is where the pair spent their childhood, and Richmond is a city with a long history of aluminum. The company sources their materials locally and the area’s rich metalworking traditions have shaped McKinnon and Harris in everything from product design to innovative manufacturing techniques.

Above: Beaufort Club Chair and Ottoman, Beaufort Sun Chaise, Beaufort Dining Arm Chair, Hepplewhite Coffee Table

Each piece of furniture that McKinnon and Harris makes begins with an idea, drawn from the memory of family and friends and family heirlooms. The company’s Beaufort Collection, for example, is named after a beloved dog and pays homage to Duncan Phyfe with its distinct X-back.

The foundation of the company, the employees of McKinnon and Harris, are its heart and soul. More than 10 different craftspeople work on each piece, overseeing everything from welding and coating to upholstery in the cushion workroom.

An obsession with lasting craftsmanship coupled with a desire to craft enduring furniture led the Massies to choose aluminum, an exceptionally durable material ideal for the creation of outdoor pieces to be passed down from generation to generation.

Aluminum is a difficult material to work with, and the welding and joinery process is complex and intricate. It is with extreme care and precision that craftspeople complete this part of the production, ensuring that each weld and joint will meet the high performance standards set by McKinnon and Harris.

Each piece requires a significant amount of hand work, especially during the finishing process where multiple rounds of careful sanding and filing ensure a flawless surface before coating begins.

McKinnon and Harris has developed a proprietary powder coating process to offer the highest level of protection from the elements. The company has spent more than 20 years of research and development to create one of the most effective and environmentally friendly coating applications for corrosion resistance.

Above: duVal Club Chairs with Persian star backs and Scaisbrooke Coffee Table

For seating pieces, the journey continues in the McKinnon and Harris upholstery workroom. Their team of master seamstresses create cushions perfectly tailored and specifically fitted to their high performance outdoor seating.

Above: McKinnon and Harris nameplate, which features the image of the Greek god Dionysus

The final step in the production of a McKinnon and Harris piece is the addition of a bronze nameplate, the company’s stamp of approval for the quality of the construction and symbolic of the lifetime guarantee of the aluminum furniture frame.

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