Place: 7B aka Horseshoe Bar aka Vazac’s**
Beer: A fine Irish stout
* Technically Afternoon
** NYC’s winner for Dive Bar with Most Aliases
It seems fitting to kick off our new series, “An Afternoon Beer…” with Martin Goebel, founder and design director of Goebel & Co. Furniture. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I first encountered his work when I sat my ass on one his chairs for an afternoon beer at a craft brewery in St. Louis. But it was the second time my ass met a Goebel chair that brings us here today.
It was the Luna Rocker—easily the sexiest rocking chair of 2016—which like one of those low-slung roadsters of yore manages to be elegant, bubbly and fast all in the same breath. Goebel & Co.’s work combines high design with impeccable hand-craftsmanship for a range of commercial, residential and custom pieces. In person, Goebel is a man of convictions and possesses a Hemingway-esque lust for life that makes for a great afternoon beer companion.
You’ve made furniture for a lot of bars and restaurants. What are some things you think about when you’re designing something that you know is going to end up in a bar?
I think about experience. How will my design influence the patron of the bar? How long will they sit? How can I heighten the user experience of the furniture with my aesthetic, ergonomic and structural choices? I think about color. I think about comfort. Beer is a single serving experience. Beer in a bar is even more so… how can I make that experience worth replicating?
You were one of the youngest students to be admitted to the College of the Redwoods’ prestigious woodworking intensive. How did that early training affect your work?
The way I was trained was very formal. Very much like a French chef would be trained. You have a master and you cut dovetails for a week straight. Cut them until your hands can do it as muscle memory. Oddly enough, to this day, I don’t like the way dovetails look. So we don’t use them at all, they’re sort of colonial hokey. But it was a very traditional hands-on woodworking education. You don’t learn to use rosewood correctly by using poplar and pine. You learn it by using rosewood.
I’ve noticed you get very animated talking about wood…
I’m a wood zealot. Being located in Missouri, we’re in timber country. We’re able to track and control the wood we use before it even hits the ground. It’s about taking as much care and lining up the probability of success as much as possible. Because it matters. Making sure they cut it down in one piece so it’s not shattering the fibers when it falls. There’s a line in that movie Casino, “There are three ways of doing things around here: the right way, the wrong way, and the way that I do it. You understand?” And I believe in that because I’m selling my way.
What’s your philosophy behind the furniture?
Functional quality needs to be first and foremost. At Goebel & Co. we are facilitating nostalgia through personal significance. Most heirlooms are heirlooms because of the lineage of experience not because the last four generations thought it looked really cool. I can’t create personal significance, but the beauty and longevity of the piece allows for that. We offer simplifications of timeless form. Most designers negate craft theory and most craftsmen roll their eyes at designers. We merge church and state to create the finest quality on both fronts.
How do you know you’ve done your job?
If anyone ever looks at one of my pieces of furniture ten years from now and says, “I’m going to keep that because it’s so beautiful and so sturdy,” then I’ll feel complete.
What’s something surprising you’ve learned in the five years of Goebel & Co.’s existence?
Furniture sales is one of those things where nobody ever tells you how they broke it. “I don’t know what happened to it, it just broke. I was just sitting there and that massive piece of wood just broke.” And people never have sex…it’s always, “someone was jumping on the bed.” It’s hard to dent or scratch our pieces. I say enjoy the furniture. Don’t think of me for one second after it’s yours. Unless you want another piece.
Why should everyone have an afternoon beer?
Everyone works too hard, from the hedge fund manager to the trash man… especially the trash man. Afternoon beer forces us to slow down. This simple act of relaxation dictates quality of life. It’s a license to turn off the background noise and encourage others around you to do so as well. When the craftsmen at Goebel & Co. have been pushing hard on deadlines, a few times a year we will bring beer and a few steaks into the back shop and piss away the afternoon. The machines stop and bullshit flies almost as fast as the beer is drained. It keeps people sane.
Goebel & Co. Furniture is located at 2936 Locust St., Saint Louis, MO.