Recently a friend called with an unusual request: she had a few planks of walnut that had been cut from a tree on her property which she'd always wanted to convert to useful furniture but, for various reasons, had ended up just carting them around from house to house. After 25 years or so, she'd decided that it was now or never: find someone to build her furniture or find a new owner for the wood. That's where I came in. Knowing I build mostly custom furniture, one-of-a-kind and limited run designs, she'd decided I was the one who could develop a piece that would be 'unusual', practical, 'beautiful' and inexpensive. Not necessarily a tall order for me but challenging in its own right.
She was interested in, probably, a coffee or parlor table she told me. For me, it's critical that I see the space for the intended new piece and this was a first delicate step I needed to take - distinguish my fact-finding efforts from what could seem to her like an intrusion. I was careful to spell out what I was looking for: what are some of the stylistic reference points, 'traffic patterns', how much light is there, how does the client live. All of these are key factors in my approach to custom design, as much as choice of wood and 'function', whatever that is. As an aside, and this case will shortly illustrate my point, what a piece of furniture does is not necessarily self-evident. A table, because of its horizontal surface, can be for file or book storage, a writing desk, a footstool, a place to serve and eat meals - so the shape and size is not locked in by any narrow function it might perform. In fact, I like to design my furniture so that it does double or triple or quadruple duty, intentionally; that is, with forethought. My client wanted a flat surface between her couch and wood stove where she could rest her legs or put a cup of coffee or leave a book or magazine or have her lunch. She also wanted a shelf below where she could keep books or magazines she didn't necessarily read everyday but could still have ready access to. And she wanted a closed storage area that would be closed and fairly secure. And she wanted few styling features that could be potential 'dust-catchers' as she did not want to feel tethered to cleaning the piece. Then there was the wood....
as shown: solid walnut and white oak
17"h x 24"w x 50"/76"L with 2 self-storing leaves