Maple Furnishing Co

New Zealand
1914 - c1970s
Maple Furnishing Co
The Maple Furnishing Co, or 'Maples' as it was affectionately known, was one of the leading contemporary furniture department stores in New Zealand during the mid 20th century.
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Maple Furnishing was founded in Auckland in 1914 and by the 1950s the company had distinguished itself as one of the leading department stores for contemporary furniture. The Maples flagship store was located in upper Karangahape Road on the corner of Symonds St but the post-war boom lead to expansion throughout the country.

In the 1950s the company brought on avant-garde European immigrant architect Henry Kulka to design new retail destinations in the modern international style. This collaboration led to the creation of bold new Maple stores in Hurstmere Rd, Takapuna and Lower-Hutt in Wellington. Kulka's buildings featured generous high stud interiors with dramatic floor to ceiling glass window frontages. It was an exciting step away from the traditional, dark and overstuffed furniture stores that New Zealanders were accustomed to.

While the Maples stores showcased a bold modern direction in architecture, the furniture offered inside catered mostly to the tastes of a conservative audience. At the time, the majority of Kiwi furniture buyers may have been inspired by the modern lifestyles promoted in contemporary home and living magazines but when it came to spending their hard earned dollars they preferred a more conservative, traditional and often colonial style for their lounge.

That didn't stop Maples from showcasing contemporary designs in the latest international styles. The stores would often present inspiring interiors influenced by leading international designers. From the lavish Italian modern style of the 1950s to furniture influenced by Danish Designer Finn Juhl, the store promoted collections that would engage and motivate a local audience to push the boundaries of design in their homes.

A high point in the modern furniture offered by Maples was the inclusion of Australian designer Grant Featherston's celebrated 'Contour' series of the mid 1950s. Featherston's designs were produced locally under license and sold surprisingly well, this was influential in advancing modern alternatives to traditional furniture. The physical lightness of the Featherston designs allowed the Maples storefront designers to easily suspend chairs in mid-air which was a real draw card to the retail windows.

Maples was also actively involved in promoting contemporary design throughout the country. The company would have yearly furniture design shows and also highlight in-house designs at fun public events like the Winter Show. Maples furniture can be seen alongside designs from John Crichton, Imi Porsolt, Michael Brett and Group Architects in the 1952 'Art and Design Exhibition' making a significant contribution to the early design movement in New Zealand.

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Photos of the Maples Store in Takapuna are from the Fletcher Trust Archives; P9078/20 and P9078/21
Interior Photos of the Maples Store on Karangahape Road are from the Sparrow Industrial Photo Archive

Maple Furnishing Co