In an age of soulless mass-produced furniture and disposable particle board, there's something to be said for handmade craftsmanship and items built with integrity. Herewith, three American artisans who have turned their passion for woodworking into quality pieces of furniture that will last you a lifetime.
Randy Cochran dreamed up the understated design of his Lookout Mountain rocker three decades ago and it's since become the shop's signature piece. The chairs are made from air-dried southern hardwoods like walnut, cherry and maple combined with vegetable-dyed, hand-stretched leather. Every chair is built by Cochran and his two sons in their handsome Arley, Alabama workshop. The self-described "wood geeks" use centuries-old techniques like mortise and tenon joints for the smooth-sanded corners and secure them with solid brass pins. Each one takes about 80 to 90 hours to complete, and we imagine they'll last about 80 or 90 years—if not more.
$3,950 at Wood Studio
Sam Unruh started working with wood when he built his first treehouse. Now he lives and works in a hundred-year-old house in Grandview, Missouri that he fully restored and turned into his workshop and showroom (complete with a large cable furniture elevator). His signature pieces have a warmth and heirloom quality to them. "I take a lot of inspiration from things that are old," says Unruh. "I love the texture and faded color you see in a well-worn piece of wood, and I spend a lot of time trying to bring that to my furniture." His popular Stockyard table is a masculine piece that can be fully customized in a range of finishes and sizes, from a longer dining table down to a sturdy desk.
From $570, at Unruh Furniture
Medium Density Fiberboard (a saw dust composite known as MDF) has become the defacto building material for cheap furniture. In 2012 alone, 2.5 billion square feet of MDF was used in the United States.
(Source: RISI (PDF))
Growing up with a wood shop in the basement, Jason Lewis learned about woodworking by watching and helping his father on projects around the house. After college, and a few years in the 9-to-5 grind of Chicago, he sought out a local woodworker and fine-tuned his craft as an apprentice. Lewis now runs his own custom shop along with designing more affordable pieces for brands like CB2. Inspired by a midcentury aesthetic (think Wegner or Eames) along with Japanese woodwork and traditional Shaker furniture, his work (like this black walnut bench) is a study in natural beauty and time-tested techniques. "My main focus is to create furniture or objects that are simple, nicely proportioned and well made," he says. "Luxurious but still functional and comfortable."
$3,750 at Jason Lewis
Promotional Photo: By Brian Francis