This is the table that started it. Shown here, now safely ensconced in Atlanta, a dear friend and I found it at the Kanarusha sale last year. I loved it so much that I was ready to go down to the mat and fight for it, but the depth of the friendship coupled with the fact that I had nowhere (nowhere!!!) to put it kept me from the wrestling match.
Actually, I may have to take that back. Maybe this is the table that started it all off for me. This image was ripped out of a World of Interiors but I had the pleasure of being in the new Rose Uniacke shop on the Pimlico Road in London a year and a half ago. I love the juxtaposition of the Sheraton style sofa with this organic tree slice slab table and an industrial light thrown in for good measure.
No, I might even have to take that one back too and go all the way back to my first ever sighting of iconic Japanese-American designer George Nakashima’s wooden slab tables. Radical and homemade, smooth and rough at the same time, the contrast between them and their extraordinary workmanship makes his pieces art as much as furniture. I can’t remember exactly when I first encountered one, but it left an indelible impression. This photo of the table at Kentuck Knob will do for illustration. Nakashima plus Frank Lloyd Wright – can’t top that.
Whichever way you slice it, I have been scoping for sculptural wood furniture since the day I arrived in Japan. Tree trunk or table slab, I am easy. The problem as always has been finding somewhere to put something. As you look over the post, the key-note that binds all these interiors together is their pale simplified palette, whether it be the silvered hues of the driftwood or the warmer tones of some of the other pieces. Adding natural wood is easy, but making it look good in its surroundings requires a controlled hand.
A recent New York Times article featured the beautifully spare home of Michael Fleming, a Maine artist and furniture maker who works with driftwood and his partner, Jennifer Wurst. The theme of the piece is how cheaply they created their personal haven – much of it picked up at the dump – but the furniture and artwork that brings it alive are Fleming’s amazing creations from driftwood. Here in the dining room, the floor lamp, named “Long Reach” and the massive canvas on the wall are both his work.
The living room has the only item – the sofa – which cost over $100 and just barely at that. Tucked in the corner is a great tree stump table.
The hall has a branch of driftwood standing guard at the doorway.
The bed is made from logs of oak and maple.
This piece of wood is awaiting its fate as a floor lamp. Amazing!
The article inspired me to pull pictures from my files of other art furniture made from raw wood. While photographer Victoria Pearson takes luminescent interior shots for the major shelter magazines, her own home is no less beautiful. Here is a version from 2005, with an amazing trunk-like wooden lamp…
…and here it is again a few years later.
Like the piece in Fleming’s hallway, Vincente Wolf uses branches, or maybe even roots, as sculpture on the wall in this project.
This sleek city aerie by Alexandra Angle features a coffee table reminiscent of the one in the Rose Uniacke ad above. The super modern condo is a perfect counterpoint to the natural wood pieces.
In this peaceful beach home, Jarlath Mellet uses a glass top to make a table from branches.
Mellet used raw, distressed or knotty wood furnishings similar to the driftwood and timber you’d find at the beach or in the country throughout this house, including this tree sofa. Not sure if it is comfy, but it definitely makes a statement
Todd Alexander Romano has a similar glass topped table in his new L.A. home.
Sometimes a small accent is all you need. I love the contrast between the branch candlestand and the much more formal antiques in James Huniford’s NY State home.
I haven’t found much in the way of artisanal wooden furniture at shrine sales, although there are shops here in Japan that specialize in Nakashima style pieces. What I have seen quite a few of are wooden hibachi with organic shapes and natural details, perfect for adding a bit of sculptural wood to an interior.
Perfect as planters and accent tables, or perhaps we should follow Markham Roberts’ lead and make the best use of a vintage hibachi that I can think of….
… a giant drinks cooler. Time for a party!
Image credits: 1. W. Gagnon, 2. via Rose Uniacke, 3. via Kentuck Knob, 4-8. The New York Times, August 31, 2011, photo credit: Trent Bell, 9. Martha Stewart Living September 2005, photo credit: Victoria Pearson, 10. House Beautiful August 2008, photo credit: Victoria Pearson, 11. via Vincente Wolf, 12. via Alexandra Angle, 13. Lonny July/August 2100, photo credit: Patrick Cline, 14. via Jarlath Mellett, 15. Lonny May/June 2011, photo credit: Patrick Cline, 15. Elle Decoration Hong Kong date unknown, photo credit: Guillaume de Laubier, 16-19. me, 20. Markham Roberts, credit unknown.