When My Le Nguyen and Rock Huynh purchased an 86-year-old home in Toronto’s West End, it quickly became clear that standard furniture sizes weren’t going to work.
“We bought a fixer upper, and the space is so particular,” recalls My Le. “We had to make the furniture to fit the space.”
Rock had always liked working with his hands. “He has a mechanical mind,” says his wife with a smile. So My Le came up with some ideas, and Rock constructed a custom dining table. And then a bench. And then a sliding barn door for their powder room.
“And then it just sort of snowballed,” My Le laughs.
Snowballed is an understatement. With My Le’s design sense and Rock’s craftsmanship, the couple went from making custom pieces for their own home, to selling them to others on Kijiji. Soon after, they were quitting their jobs and founding 1925Workbench (named for the building year of that first house), where they now craft custom furniture, doors, and hardware full time.
Completely self-taught, Rock had never been formally trained in woodworking, but My Le thinks that’s part of what makes their designs unique. “It’s been hard, but in a way it’s more interesting,” she says.
In August 2016 the two bought their current studio space, a Toronto building that had served as a family-run machine shop for the previous 60 years, passed down through three generations. Rock and My Le soon found that they’d taken the building out of the family, but not the family out of the building; the previous owner’s 18-year-old son Grant mentioned he was interested in woodworking during their purchase, and he now works for Rock and My Le as their first employee.
My Le and Rock completed the front showroom of their shop in June, and are now able to showcase samples and ideas, including their latest project (and my lifelong home furnishing dream): rolling library ladders. Everything they create is made in Canada, right down to the raw materials, and customer ideas are encouraged.
“It does take a lot of work, but when [Rock] puts his mind to it, it just happens.”
Rock Huynh and My Le Nguyen now own a suite in TAS’ DUKE condominiums. Find out more about 1925Workbench and their custom design process on their website, and follow them on Instagram to see all of their ongoing projects.
All photography provided by 1925Workbench