Love is a Four Letter Word – Tanja Hinder and Michael Thomas Host


Western Living’s “Furniture Designers of the Year”, mth woodworks’ furniture is organic yet still stylish, natural yet sleek.  Exactly like the designers themselves.   Tables, cabinets and accessories are made of salvaged Western Red Cedar tree stumps and birch branches with organic resin. At this weekend’s IDSWest, I caught up with the designers, 34 year old, native Vancouverite Michael Thomas Host, and 30 year old Swiss, Tanja Hinder, who are so down-to-earth, but still manage to be really really cool.  In this first edition of Love is a Four Letter Word, we chatted (and laughed a lot) about cycling, surfing and time machines.

What do each of you bring to your work?

Tanja: He’s a crazy perfectionist.  I’m a bit more of the organized businessperson.  And what else do I do? I sand.

Michael:  She does it all.

Tanja:  I sand a lot.

Michael: She’s my cheap labourer.  And I do most of the big heavy lifting.  When we go out salvaging for stumps, I’ll be the one trying to throw my back out, although she’s right there with me.  Then, around the workshop I do most of the construction with Tanja’s help as well.

Tanja:  The design is collaborative.  Two is better than one.  You have an idea and he says – well what about doing that and you say ok.  That way you get better.  Sometimes I have an idea and he says well, how the hell should I build that?

Michael:  Yeah, that won’t work, or oh my god that’s an awesome idea.

Tanja: He’s got the expertise in construction.  I want to go really big and tangly and he’ll say you’d better stop somewhere.  In a good way though, it would break otherwise.

Are your designs in any way a reflection of your relationship?

Michael:  They’re a perfect reflection of our relationship.  She’s smooth.

Tanja: (Laughing) I’m square.

Michael:  She’s smooth and square like the top and I’m all rough and rugged like the stump and together it makes a pretty good combination.

What’s it like working together?

Tanja:  It’s fun.

Michael:  We’ve been doing it just over a year now.  We’re still having a kick ass time.

Tanja: I have my own business as an interior designer and then I spend about fifty percent of my time working on this.

Michael:   It’s a lot of work; you can’t really leave at 3 or 4 at the end of the day.  It sort of carries on into the night.  We take it home with us to right?  But because we care about it, and we’re passionate about it, it’s not that bad.  It is a lot of time, but it doesn’t feel like work.

Tanja:  You can pick the sixteen hours a day you want to work.

How long ago and how did you meet? 

Tanja:  We met nine years ago on English Bay.  I was sitting there and he rode by on his bike (I came here to mountain bike.)  I looked for people with bikes and he had a bike.  And he was like do you want ice cream?  And I was like, no, and then I looked over and I was like yeah I think I want ice cream.

Michael:  She made the first move though.  She sat with my friend and I and said hello which I thought was impressive, because people in the modern world don’t do that anymore.  You have to go on to E-Harmony to meet people.

Tanja:  We did three years long distance, which sucks.  It’s expensive too.  At some point I thought, Vancouver is awesome, so I guess I’ll go.

Michael:  I got to go to Switzerland and I stayed there for three months. I got to do a little work over there and saw some of the local workshops as well, which was interesting.  Every one has their own style so it’s good to see.

What drew you to him/her when you first met? 

Tanja: I came out of a long relationship so I was totally like I want no strings attached, I just want to have fun. But I knew pretty quick that I was in trouble, in a good way.  We partied a lot in the beginning.  We went out a lot.  We went to Whistler a lot.

Michael: It wasn’t cut and dry.  Because when I first met her I had my good friend Brad with me.  He’s a pretty muscley, good-looking guy.  He didn’t have a girl at the time either. We weren’t sure what the etiquette was since we met this one girl between the two of us.

Tanja:  He was the quiet guy; he tried to remember my 12 digit phone number.  And then his buddy was trying to show off and I thought why is he not sitting down, what’s his problem?

What was the last thing he/she did that made you smile? 

Michael:  Man, that’s daily.  We haven’t stopped smiling since we met.  We don’t fight.  That’s the only downside we don’t get make up sex.  We really have nothing to fight about.  It’s just a good match.

Tanja:  We have the same interests. We both hate shopping.   We love camping and riding bikes. We are different people some how, but we have the same values.  That keeps us happy.

What are some special moments or memories that you still talk about? 

Tanja:  Surfing.

Michael:  Surfing.  That’s a big one.  We just bought wetsuits.  I’ve been surfing for a while. I surfed when I lived in Australia, she’s just getting into it and for me, it’s so fun to see the look on her face when she gets on a wave.  That’s the newest thing that we keep going back to, that mental vacation.

Do you still date?

Michael: All the time, but not the standard date night.  We like picnics, and take our bikes down to Spanish Banks and ride around the city, especially in the summertime when its nice and warm and just spend the evening out together.  We’re not big fans of the date night.

Is love a four-letter word? 

Michael:  It’s much more than that.

Tanja:  It’s every thing.

Michael:  I guess if you never had love, it’s just a four-letter word. But if you do have it, its much more and every thing else.

I have a time machine – what is the one thing that you would tell yourself about your partner before you met? 

Michael:  I wouldn’t want to know because it’s all in the fun of finding out as I go.  In fact nine years deep, and I’m still learning stuff about her.

Tanja: That’s how complex women are; I know every thing about him.  (Laughing)

Michael: Yeah, she had me figured out in like two years.

Tanja: If you knew every thing before, then you wouldn’t be where you are now.

What is the one thing he/she does that makes you crazy? 

Tanja:  I get a little nervous, because I’m a little over organized, but that’s a good balance.

Michael:  Yeah, it’s the yin and yang.  She is hyper, get it done right away and I’m Johnny procrastinator.  It drives me a little bananas from time to time.  But we probably owe a lot of our success to that attitude.  She needs me too, to calm her down. It’s the whole yin yang thing, it’s kind of a cliché but it’s true.

How do you know when he/she is upset?

Michael:  Just her facial expression.  I can tell just by looking at her, and probably vice versa.

What do you do to cheer him/her up?

Michael:  Go biking.  We keep coming back to that one, because for us it is actually really important to just get out.

Tanja:  I think the most important thing is if one is mad, don’t get mad, because it’s a downward spiral.  Even if you want to say it so bad, pick another time.

Words and Interview by Adina Spivak. Photos by Brice Ferré Photography