Local furniture maker and upholsterer Fernando Canchola made a splash in the local design scene last year when he started posting simple photos of his not-so-simple work on his Instagram (@fernandochavezcanchola). Items like vintage chairs upholstered in vibrant watercolor fabric, a pink velvet French-style bedframe, and bright blue Parsons tables beckon to his followers from his Beach Street studio.
“It’s hard for me to drive around and meet decorators, so I just figured if I posted pictures maybe they would come to me,” Fernando said. “I don’t have a website. All I have is my Instagram.” He was right. The orders quickly started pouring in. We sat down with him to find out a little more about the life of a Fort Worth furniture maker.
What would we find if we stepped into your studio right now? Right now we have a full house worth of furniture. I’m currently working on a custom wooden oak and metal 8-foot door a client wants to surprise his wife with for her birthday, and my dad is working on all the frames for the TCU Greek houses. You’ll also find my 8-month-old French bulldog, Bentley, asleep.
Oh yeah, you’re refurnishing the TCU Greek houses; what an exciting project. Can you tell us about any specific pieces you’ve made for the houses? We are making 12 pieces for the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority house, and probably the most used piece in the house is going to be their huge custom sectional. It’s a very modern piece and going to be supremely comfortable. The second is for the Tri Delta house, and the decorator has asked me to keep it top secret for now, but I can promise everyone will be surprised with the colors and textures he chose.
You receive many requests from designers. What are some common trends you’re seeing lately? Very modern and contemporary. Every designer has their own certain style, which is often why the client picks them.
What fabric brands are your favorite to work with? Fortuny. It’s always a pleasure to work with such a beautiful fabric that alone looks like a piece of art.
Do you have a favorite style of furniture? I like contemporary furniture because it’s often more versatile in a home.
What do you listen to while making furniture? For as long as I can remember, my dad has had oldies on the radio, and he still does to this day. I usually listen to podcasts throughout the day, and it’s mostly comedy.
Obviously your skill is custom furniture. But what’s your favorite place to shop when looking for readymade furniture? I can honestly say I’ve never bought any furniture ever. All of our furniture at the house is made by us. We made our beds, guest beds, dining table, dining chairs, sofas, coffee table, my desk, even our drapes for our windows we sewed.
How did you learn to make furniture? I learned everything I know from my father at an early age. My father used to work in a warehouse where he eventually learned the trade and thought he could make better high-quality furniture. He went into business alone over 40 years ago in California, learning every step and opening a shop on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. He would bring me to the shop on the weekends, and I would play with the staple gun. Eventually I learned the trade and took it seriously at 16 years old when we moved to Texas. On the weekends and summer breaks back then you could find me in the shop with my dad. Now, 10 years later it’s something I can appreciate and am grateful for.
Any plans for your own line one day? It’s a little hard to find some free time right now, but it has always been a dream of mine and my fathers to have our own line of custom furniture one day or a showroom where people can come and see our pieces. My father went from being a factory worker that would bring side jobs home to his apartment and work in his room with a small compressor while everyone was gone at work, to meeting Rose Tarlow and making her custom line of furniture. [Tarlow is a well-respected designer, named one of the world’s top 100 interior designers and architects in Architectural Digest in 2014.] Hopefully, I’ll have a website and a few pieces before the end of the year. I’m currently booked till mid-August but still taking orders for clients that want a custom piece of furniture.
photography by Alex Lepe