Maker Monday: An Aspire Exclusive Interview With David Mawhinney

We hope everyone enjoyed their Father’s Day weekend, and what a better way to segue into this week’s Maker Monday than to shout out a can-do dad. David Mawhinney is an auditor, turned chef, turned entrepreneur that has paved the way in every industry he has touched. While landing on Franklin+Emily, his successful children’s furniture brand, Mawhinney has shown that your children’s furniture should be just as sustainable, durable and sophisticated as any other piece of home furnishings. Introducing this bada** of a father, David Mawhinney.

Nestled in the corner is the Kids Leather Lounger. It is made of vegetable-tanned leather and light enough wood for little ones to move on their own.

Nestled in the corner is the Kids Leather Lounger. It is made of vegetable-tanned leather and light enough wood for little ones to move on their own.

Andrew Joseph: What is the last book you read?
David Mawhinney: Just finished the All Creatures Great and Small series by James Herriot. It’s about a veterinarian in rural Yorkshire set between the wars. It’s an escape to a seemingly more simple time. Escapism fiction I guess.

Andrew: What is something you hope to see trending in design in the future?
David: We focus a lot on sustainability and I think one trend that I would like to see become a permanent part of design is ‘end of life treatment’. Whether that’s built into the design itself or accounted for via another solution, it needs to be addressed. I love being a creator, but everything isn’t like LEGO where you can break it apart and make something new.

Andrew: What’s a guilty pleasure you have?
David: Milk chocolate. Except without the guilt.

Andrew: If you weren’t a designer, you’d be a ….?
David: Accountant, nope – been that. Chef, nope, been that. Always wanted to try my hand at ‘butlering’.

Andrew: What are your ideal weekend plans?
David: Like most good plans, the ideal weekend plan starts with good coffee, then maybe a walk in Prospect Park with the family or a long solo bike ride, then back home to prepare an elaborate dinner with friends that goes on too late.

Andrew: What’s your design pet peeve?
David: Compromising on the wrong thing. I always hate when I look at a piece and think “if they had just thought about how this is used for one more minute…” I understand why compromises are made, but…

Andrew: What’s something you always travel with?
David: I’ve been known to bring my entire knife roll with me – I feel I always need to be prepared to cook a feast or a simple omelet with my own tools. I was once flagged at an airport for trying (mistakenly) to carry them on. Every red light in security went off and they ended up calling the kitchen to confirm what I did. I still get teased.

Andrew: What are you most proud of?
David: My children. Every day they do something, even something little, that makes me swell with pride.

Andrew: Style (or design) icon?
David: Very cliché, but Coco Chanel. I love her philosophy on style. One of my favorite quotes that I took to heart as a chef and now as a furniture designer is “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” I think all too often we try and make something have everything, when is just confuses and obfuscates the purpose and look. Multi-functionalism should be kept to Swiss Army knives.

The first in Franklin+Emily’s collection of furniture was The Chair. This piece was created with functionality, durability, and playfulness in mind. Not only can the kiddos sit and enjoy themselves, but they can also use the chair for exploring and imagining.

The first in Franklin+Emily’s collection of furniture was The Chair. This piece was created with functionality, durability, and playfulness in mind. Not only can the kiddos sit and enjoy themselves, but they can also use the chair for exploring and imagining.

Andrew: What’s one ingredient you put in everything?
David: Lemon or lime get a lot of love in my kitchen – the zest if I just want the bright flavor, or the juice if I need to punch up the intensity with a little acid.

Andrew: What’s your biggest fear in life?
David: Not finishing what I star…

Andrew: Favorite piece of clothing you own?
David: Probably my black clogs by Clogmaster. I wore them all the time in kitchens and kept a pair in the studio to change into. I like the ritual of changing shoes to change modes. There’s a reason why professionals that are on their feet all day use them, they are so comfortable and they also give me another inch in height.

Andrew: Favorite tea to decompress, and in what mug?
David: Tetley’s – is a comfort thing. I collect Koninklijk Goedewaagen Gouda ceramic mugs, so it’d be in one of them – and of those, the one with the small girl eating a fish. Classic Dutch vibes.

Andrew: Embarrassing quarantine habit?
David: I’ve been eating a tremendous amount of milk chocolate. Also, like the guilt, I’m not that embarrassed about it.

Andrew: What’s your go-to snack between zooms?
David: We order a lot from Nuts.com – currently I’m enjoying an almond, cherry, milk chocolate chip combo. With snacks, I try and balance health with flavors and avoid cookies/potato chips which, regardless of package size, end up being a single serving. (Talking to you, Oreos!)

Andrew: What’s your go-to playlist for dancing alone in your living room?
David: Soundtrack from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” You know, kid-approachable stuff.

This sustainable and compact desk is everything your children need for playtime. With plenty of storage, they can put their books, pens and even water-bottle in this desk. Allowing for them (and especially you) to keep everything tidy and organized.

This sustainable and compact desk is everything your children need for playtime. With plenty of storage, they can put their books, pens and even water-bottle in this desk. Allowing for them (and especially you) to keep everything tidy and organized.

Andrew: What is the best carb-loaded meal you’ve made thus far?
David: Cassoulet. It’s one of my favorite dishes to make. I love the complexity and the multi-day preparation involved. I made it over the holidays and took the whole pot with me to Vermont to ski. It was supposed to feed 12, but 4 of us managed it.

Andrew: What new skills have you taught yourself this quarantine? (baking, bread making, or a craft etc)
David: Cooking rice. I was a chef for 15 years and never got rice quite right. I never had the patience to leave it alone. Now I have more time and have become ‘proficient’ at making most types. Which is honestly something I might never have focused on without quarantine.

Andrew: What’s one thing you hate admitting that you love about quarantine?
David: I think I like the pace of things more during the pandemic. People started to put things (work, tasks, deadlines) in perspective, and I think the important things rise to the top of that list. I’ll miss that.

Andrew: How have you managed to grow your long-distance friendships?
David: I still have a lot of my good friends in Canada and what I realized, and probably shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to discover, is that relationships take effort. At the start we’d jump on 2-3 hour Zoom calls on a Friday or Saturday night. Now with everyone on Zoom all day, they’ve lost their appeal a bit.

Andrew: Has your mindset changed into 2021? In what ways?
David: Less is more.


About The Maker | Same apron, different tools. Never one to take the well-travelled path, David Mawhinney’s career trajectory reads more like a choose your own adventure novel than a straightforward story. He started his career in the world of finance at PwC in Toronto where he worked as an auditor in the finance and technology sector. Filling a need to be creative, David took a leap into the culinary world, working his way up in the finest restaurants in Toronto. With an opportunity to work at Thomas Keller’s 3-Michelin-starred, per se, he and his wife moved to New York in 2007. Years later he joined Haven’s Kitchen—event space, café and cooking school — as chef then Culinary Director. During his time at Haven’s Kitchen, he published a cookbook with ArtisanBooks and co-founded Haven’s Kitchen Sauces, a line of ready-made sauces that found their way to the shelves of Whole Foods Market within 9 months. Throughout his culinary career, David has worked as a consultant, opening several restaurants, pubs and bakeries from the US and Canada to as far as Saudi Arabia. His recipes have appeared in Bon Appétit, Vogue, Business Insider, Food & Wine, Williams Sonoma, and Domino Magazine, where he was a contributing editor, and he has spoken at numerous conferences on waste management and sustainability within food. He made the pivot to furniture design and fabrication after not being able to find quality children’s furniture that fit the aesthetic of his home. As a parent of two children in Brooklyn, he designed the Chair from the ground up to fit the needs of his children and to instill in them a sense of good design, sustainability, and durability. In August 2019, the company launched their full collection, available at franklinemily.com, and has expanded the line to include a Desk Set and a Montessori-inspired Learning Tower. His furniture won Bronze from the 14th Annual International Design Awards, an honoree at the 2019 ICFF NYCxDesign Award, as well as Winner in the Excellent Product Design – Baby and Child Care category at the 2019 German Design Awards. David lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Aimee and kids+designers, Desmond and Frances.


Andrew Joseph is a regular contributing editor for aspire design and home magazine. See more of his work here.

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