Industrial Refined

Maka, shown on one of his benches, started building furniture as a hobby. It became so popular that four years later, he decided to work at his craft full time.

Many designers, artists, and craftspeople find success and fulfillment by traveling a side road; it’s a journey that’s sometimes bumpy, often lonely, unpredictably wending, and mostly uncharted. Anton Maka, a 29-year-old furniture maker and owner of Shelby Township’s Anton Maka Designs, pedaled to success on the black leather seat of a red-fendered, two-wheeled Super Deluxe Monark bike that he found and restored by hand.

“It’s weird to say the bike led me to a vocation of building furniture,” says Maka, who, with his family, moved to the area from Albania at the age of 10, “especially since I’d achieved my goal of becoming art director of Autoweek magazine and was very happy with that work.”

Maka explains that, after hours spent in front of the computer every day — even for such a creative job — when he got home, he craved a different form of artistic activity and expression.

“(When I was) a kid,” Maka says, “my dad and grandpa always had tools around the house. After completing the bike restoration, I started designing and building furniture pieces as a hobby.”

Demand for his furniture grew. After four years, Maka left his art director job to begin making furniture full time.

In his airy, light-filled commercial studio/workshop, Maka, with two employees, now designs and builds unique, clean-lined, wood-and-metal tables, benches, chairs, mirrors, consoles, and more for residential, commercial, and interior design customers. His pieces stand as functional works of gleaming art.

One of the designer’s most popular items is his Russell end table. With its simple lines, an open-design base of solid steel, and a slab of walnut that appears to be melting over the side, the piece is clean but rustic — and easy to place anywhere.

“Walnut is my favorite species,” Maka says as he points to a black walnut coffee table with copper inlay on the top and legs, “and I like to play around with wood and metal inserts.”

Maka also likes to use “bookmatched” wood for his larger tabletops. With bookmatching, two adjoining surfaces that make the tabletop are produced from one piece of wood so they have almost the exact same appearance, only mirrored.

Thanks to his experience as a graphic artist, Maka is able to beautifully capture the features of these stunning furniture pieces for his website and catalogs. Steve McClard of Portland, Ore., senior design director for Nike Field Sports, found Maka’s work online.

DESIGN DEVOTEE Beautiful wood and finished pieces fill furniture designer and builder Anton Maka’s studio in Shelby Township. Using gorgeous wood and, often, dark metals, he turns out chairs (note the inlaid work on the “studio” chair), tables (some are expandable), and more for residential and commercial clients as well as interior designers.

“We have an eclectic, Arts and Crafts-style home,” McClard says, “and my wife and I wanted to mix in some modern pieces. After months of looking unsuccessfully for furniture that’s industrial but more refined — not the popular, ‘rough-industrial’ style — we finally gave up.”

After a vacation, and feeling revitalized, McClard again ventured online — and discovered Anton Maka’s work.

“I came across one of his coffee tables and really liked it,” McClard says. “I ended up ordering two large tables. One is a half-banquette for our dinette area, and the other is a formal dining table that Anton meticulously ‘scaled up’ from the coffee table that I liked so well.

“With all the work we’ve done on our home,” McClard continues, “there are a million stories that have gone south. But Anton was a real joy to collaborate with. His craftsmanship is borderline OCD, his style is reductive, and he thinks through every element for the overall aesthetic. When I first saw his name, I thought, ‘Oh, he must be a designer in Italy!’ Anton and I laughed at that and also enjoyed talking about our similar design backgrounds. And the craziest thing,” McClard adds, “is that my parents live in Shelby Township, right down the road from him.”

“So close,” Maka laughs, “you could get there on a bike!”

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