At Madera we are fortunate to have a great variety of woodworking projects cross our benches. The custom projects we create vary from contemporary, ultra-refined designs to rustic pieces made from reclaimed materials. These days we are often asked to create tables and countertops from wood slabs that feature live edges – meaning that the natural edges of the tree are left intact.

Leaving the tree’s natural edges on completed furniture probably dates back to the dawn of carpentry. It was likely around the 1960s when it stepped out of the world of rustic furniture and into modern interior design. I believe that we owe much of this change of esthetics to George Nakashima (1905 – 1990), one of our country’s most innovative and influential furniture designers and craftsmen. Possibly his greatest legacy was showing us how to let wood’s natural beauty and character be the focus of a finished piece rather than man-made embellishments. Nakashima would often overlook lumber with  perfect, straight grain and reach for wood with what others thought of as defects.

Slowly, over the last few decades, live edge furniture has gained more and more popularity in the main stream. (You know it is main-stream when Starbucks incorporates it into their stores’ interior scheme!) Along the way I have often wondered about how long the fad will last. But what I have slowly come to realize is that incorporating live edge furniture into our built environment is not so much of a fad but more of a satisfying of an inner biological need. And as much as I hate to acknowledge it, Starbucks figured it out first!

Everyday our time is swallowed by illuminated screens in sleek plastic boxes. Phones, TVs, computers, tablets, car dashboards, billboards and on and on all demand our attention and always win! But somewhere in our biology there is a need for balance. Maybe we can’t divert our attention completely away from the onslaught of screens but if we can sit  with our laptop at a table that, at least in a tactile way, connects us to something natural, perhaps we feel a bit more balanced. You have likely heard how petting dogs can lower blood pressure and actually relieve stress? I propose that the same is true for live edge furniture! And the fact that you can find live edge furniture in nearly any interior design setting only reinforces my hypothesis.

Google it, live edge furniture. Then look at the variety of designs that come up. Yes, there will be pieces that belong at a beach cabin or a rustic lodge in the mountains - but also there are mid-century modern pieces, traditional shaker style tables, Asian, contemporary, something for everyone. And every one of them beckons to be touched – to be connected with, to reconnect you, to bring balance to your life.

Wood can be like a great equalizer. Just one artfully finished piece will bring warmth into even the most sterile environment. The vast majority of the live edge slabs we work with come from our region. They are local and always sustainably harvested – meaning that the trees were not originally removed for their wood, but for another reason. If your taste happens to be a bit more exotic we have slabs available from responsibly managed domestic and tropical forests. We take pride, at Madera, in designing and crafting furniture to coordinate with any interior design and we look forward to doing our part to help bring balance into your life. Carlos

Published on May 31, 2016.