Headwaters Inspired Profile: John Leenders


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Rural inspiration drives a unique furniture collection

“This is a passion for me. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have this creative outlet,” said John Leenders. “I’ve always liked the idea of making my own furniture and so I’ve pursued it.”

Making a living as a chicken farmer has given Leenders the time to follow his inspiration for being a true maker.

“At first, I started making furniture for myself and then began selling more and more pieces,” said Leenders. “I work with both new and reclaimed materials, including barn board from one of my old barns. I’ve also got some walnut trees that I will be milling soon.”

A naturally raw aesthetic that softens over time

Leenders takes an elemental approach to his design where rugged materials are left in raw or natural states.

“I like a straightforward look with a bit of an industrial feel. With my pieces, you can see how they’re made,” said Leenders. “I think of it as honest, not trendy. If it’s too finely finished, it’s not for me.”

An Ontario stamp shows pride of place

While Leenders acknowledges that people can buy furniture made anywhere in the world, he believes his buyers appreciate pieces with local authenticity.

“I stamp ‘Erin Ontario’ on my work so people know where it came from. I think they like that connection,” said Leenders. “People seem to enjoy coming up to workshop to see works in progress and the tools I use. Then if they buy something, they have a good idea of how and where it was made.”

Coffee tables, consoles, benches and chairs

Leenders continues to expand his offerings as the inspiration strikes him. He works with a local foundry to get table legs sand cast. “I use the legs as a base for my tables, but I’ll also sell them to people who want to build their own. I like to see how people use my designs. They’ve become very popular.”