– Words by Angela Cowan Photographs by Lia Crowe
Step into Wolf & Porter’s bright showroom in Kelowna and chances are you’ll immediately want to run your fingers over the finely crafted tables on display. Masterfully made from heritage and sustainably sourced woods and resins, and with a variety of metallic legs and accents, these bespoke creations are the pinnacle of quality, able to lean into the practical or the luxurious to cater to their clients.
Wolf & Porter is the collaboration between Harvey Bremner and Chris Aalbers, who began the business just over a year ago, and went about things a little differently than expected.
“We spent a lot of time—the first four or five months—just nailing down the right suppliers and the right processes to make sure right from the get go that anything we put out was on par with the products coming out of New York or LA,” says Harvey.
The two were already friends when they both recognized a hole in the high-end furniture market, and the blending of Chris’s wealth of exceptional woodworking skills and Harvey’s decades of sales and marketing savvy seemed an ideal collaboration.
“Knowing Chris and the quality of his work, and me and my marketing and sales experience, it seemed the perfect fit,” says Harvey.
The pair took a big leap from day one, immediately securing the largest premises they could find, and investing heavily up front, rather than starting as a smaller operation and seeing how it went.
“We treated it more as an IT start-up,” explains Harvey, who’s worked with various big tech companies in Silicon Valley. “They talk a lot about having the ability to scale, whether you can grow into it.”
Now, less than six months since opening to the public, Wolf & Porter has established relationships with clients throughout North America and is on track to compete with some of the biggest designer names in furniture.
Harvey describes Wolf & Porter as “high-end but accessible,” and a quick look through their online shop yields a gorgeous array of tables, including: The Arundel, a striking coffee table crafted with spalted maple, cradling a dark-smoke river of resin that sells for $3,250; the $5,995 art installation/coffee table The Bruin, made from rich walnut and left in its natural, meandering border; and The Belgravia, a spectacular piece created from a single slab of sustainable African teak that comes in a few dollars shy of $24,000.
Another table that is instantly eye-catching is The Eton, a visually intricate piece crafted from Mappa burl (sourced from European poplars), one of the top hardwood choices for high-end furniture. The blend of light and darker shades under a warm, burnished finish is stunning, and it would be a gorgeous addition to just about any room.
But the real gem of Wolf & Porter is its bespoke process, where clients can customize their own products.
“As soon as people understand that we can custom build them something, that’s immediately what they want,” says Harvey. “Then it becomes multi-generational, because there is an emotional quotient there.”
As he explains, “If you go back 20 or 30 years, people’s tables were, in the main, very well made.” People became attached to these pieces because they had belonged to their parents or their grandparents, and memories had been made around them—they had stories to tell. As soon as Wolf & Porter’s clients understand that they can get not only a high-quality table, but one that they themselves having a hand in designing, it brings back that emotional connection to the process.
To satisfy that demand, Wolf & Porter designed a set of parameters that anyone can navigate, choosing specific woods, leg shape and material, accents and more.
“Every single table that comes out of that customizable table process is unique,” says Harvey. “You could do two back to back with the same materials and they’d look completely different, with their own characteristics.”
Each wood comes with a distinct personality, some leaning more into classic or contemporary, some subtle or edgy in design and shape. The company also takes on select clients for highly customized, top-shelf artistic pieces. One 11-foot-long table in progress, for example, incorporated one-of-a-kind legs made to look like trees, with long benches inlaid with the client’s logo.
Ultimately, Wolf & Porter’s entire philosophy is about creating a unique and memorable customer experience while delivering an impeccably crafted product. With bigger box stores, customers don’t have a chance to truly become invested with a piece, says Harvey. They walk in, pick a table, and wait for it to be delivered.
“We believe the journey starts well before delivery day,” he explains. “Every decision that we make around the company is around customer experience. The quality of the wood, the design, the interaction with me and the team at the showroom. Every stage that the table goes through, the client gets an email telling them where it is in the process. It’s a journey they go through with us. And once it’s white-glove delivered into their home, they begin making their own experiences with it. That experience and journey makes a difference.”