When a tree falls at Otahuna Lodge near Christchurch, head gardener Steve Marcham is sad… but happy. Sad for the demise of a majestic tree but in his head he’s already planning what he can make from the fallen timber. Because when he’s not absorbed in tending the 30 acres of grounds, Steve is in his workshop, engrossed in fashioning wood into practical pieces with a simple, inherent beauty. Take his robust and handsome wooden and leather fly swatters: is their beauty in the grain of the Tasmanian blackwood handle? Is it their hand-punched holes in the cow hide leather? Yes, it’s both of these but more: as Steve tells it, they’re beautiful “because they work”.

Proving that this theory works both ways, Steve talks me through the development of his most popular piece, the practical and handsome egg rack. Lockdown baking meant the family wanted to keep a lot of eggs out of the fridge. Surely, he thought, we can do better than an egg carton on the bench. With the shops closed, lack of the correct equipment foiled his first design, but before long he came up with a rectangular prototype. “It worked but it wasn’t beautiful,” he says. Imagining the elegance that curves would bring, he set to thinking how it could be done, eventually sculpting the curled ends on a sander to create a piece that is beautifully useful.

“Practical is a nice approach for me. Everything – from wooden spoons to spatulas to knife racks to egg racks – has to have a real purpose and use.” Even his keepsake boxes – which are undoubtedly decorative – are, first and foremost, useful. “They’re for putting things in.


“Being outside in the gardens all day feeds into my creativity. I have time to think through a design problem, or work out in my head how I’m going to make something. I have all day to think it through, then I can’t wait to get into the workshop.”

Steve’s pieces are available exclusively through Christchurch design store Frances Nation. Owner Tessa Peach says, “Steve turned up at the shop one day with a collection of goods that were well designed, well crafted and reasonably priced considering the quality. He is great at brainstorming new product ideas that might suit our customers; he knows we like our products to be useful and long-lasting.”

All pieces are made from recycled or windfall timber and he’s keenly aware that it’s a limited supply. Once that tree is used up he will have to adapt the design to what he can find next. So, he “makes stuff that will last” and delivers it to the store on an ebike. @stevemarchamdesigns Tracy Whitmey