Look closely and you’ll see the fine details: a knot filled in with a precisely cut whorl of brass, patterns in woodgrain perfectly aligned—these are the signatures of Marvin Freitas, a statement-making local woodworker and sculptor among whose main concerns are without a doubt beauty and precision.
“It’s about building a reputation and putting out quality work,” Marvin said. “From beginning to end, you gotta be clean, you gotta be organized, you gotta care.”
Among the raw wood and carefully stored tools in his Minneapolis studio, he pointed to a few of the rejected pieces from a recent project, noting the imperfections. (They were barely perceptible; probably only Marvin would have noticed them.) But it matters to him that he gets it right. “If you don’t show the love in your work, it shows,” he said.
What he felt did meet the bar, he brought to the recently opened Minneapolis hotel Alma, which he’d been tasked to furnish. And it wasn’t just the beds and dressers he created: Marvin custom designed and built all the beds, dressers, floating bedside tables, television encasements, open closets, desks, window shutters and the concierge desk. Each piece was hand-made from local white oak wood and several are detailed with inlaid brass.
The results are stunning—a modern Scandinavian-esque aesthetic makes each room look chic yet feel completely comfortable. (The hotel is the newest addition to Alma, situated in a historic firehouse and an adjacent former speedboat factory, which also includes a restaurant and café.)
“I like minimal, simple—the details are important. The craftsmanship sets me apart.”
Craftsmanship is something Marvin grew up learning almost inadvertently. He spent a lot of time watching his grandfather, who owned a small garage shop in Galicia, Spain. “He was a big influence in my life,” Marvin said. “He had a lot of tools. He gave me my first knife.”
But he was also just naturally curious, inclined to try to figure things out. As a kid, Marvin said, “I was always making and breaking things. Always breaking—a tape measure, a drill—just to see how it worked.”
He started making furniture, acquiring tools and—for the ones he didn’t already know everything about, like the welder and glass cutter he bought a few years back—teaching himself how to use them. In his 20s, living in New York and New Jersey, Marvin worked out of his van, building a small business with a table saw. “It was like a shop on wheels,” he said. He moved to Minneapolis with his wife in 2007 and got a job as a maintenance manager, working on his own projects on the weekends.
“It was hard for the first couple of years,” he said. “But I had my wife and kids—that’s the only thing that matters to me.”
Several slow-going and hard-working years later, he’s now proud to own Form Co., his woodworking company, and still make art under his own name. He has a few freelancers working with him, some as young as high school age. He wants to teach what he knows and share his experiences. “I try to make them care as much as I do,” he said.
In addition to the Alma project, Form Co. has created furnishings for clients ranging from small businesses and boutiques to private homes. The cashwrap, shelving and display cases at the Minneapolis boutique MILLE, for example, were all custom designed and built to fit Marvin’s aesthetic as well as that of the owner, Michelle LeBlanc. (Michelle, who is also a semi-recent transplant to Minneapolis, happens to be a close friend of Marvin and his wife.) And Marvin said he makes a lot of friends through his work—other artists, designers, people who are as passionate about what they do as he is.
“I love what I do,” he said. “I work with the best people. I’m pretty lucky.”
Photography by Dina Kantor.