Inspiring Contemporary Wood Designs
Wood is a timeless and expressive material that works just as well in contemporary minimalist designs as it did in the elaborate cabinetry of past ages.
I have come across some truly remarkable practitioners of the woodworking art, design, manufacturing and instruction.
e15 is a German company that produces mostly serenely simple pieces in which the wood itself as well as the beautifully balanced proportions and clean shapes harmonize to create very satisfying, intelligent, useful and unobtrusive pieces. www.e15.com.
Another company with a tradition of excellence in design and manufacture of contemporary yet less minimalist designs is the Italian firm Riva 1920. Their products, made of solid wood and beautifully worked, often have unusual and material-intensive forms. It is clear that they are meant to “last forever” and become heirlooms. Some of them are bold and experimental statements crossing over into the realm of art. www.riva1920.it.
Of course there are more firms working in this spirit, some large and some small.
In the USA, traditional forms predominate yet there are some notable woodworkers who produce beautiful contemporary designs – with a subtle American flavor.
One such is Laura Rittenhouse, based in California. She is a master woodworker and adds beautifully conceived and integrated details to her pieces. www.lrstudiofurniture.com.
Of course working at that level requires great skill. If you are interested in taking up the challenge of high design and execution in woodworking, you might consider getting instruction from the best. In California, you could attend courses offered by John Sheridan in San Francisco. John is an artist with great experience in both woodworking and teaching, and his shop is equipped to handle any project. An article written by John Sheridan explaining his “Story Furniture” class can be found here www.sanfranciscowoodshop.com/story-furniture/
Keina Takahashi’s “Skinny Table” (above) was made in John Sheridan’s Story Furniture class.
Denmark’s in design and woodworking is well known and highly respected. I often admired the typical Danish subtle, gloss-free wood finishes (dead flat may be a more accurate but less elegant term). At the 2012 Salone del Mobile in Milan I came across beautiful tables featured in the Danish Living Room.
I learned that the interesting finish on the table shown in the two pictures below was a soap finish – something we do not hear much about here in California. There is an interesting article online about applying this finish, written by Bob Flexner, the author of “Understanding Wood Finishing.”
Considering all of the above I am not sure, for all of our fascination for new and high-tech materials, that we have been able to come up with anything nicer, graceful and more friendly than wood for the kinds of objects for which wood is best suited. The possibilities for wood seem endless.