Thursday, October 22, 2009

Artificial veneers = sustainably beautiful furniture!

Typically, when a project calls for an exotic veneer we woodworkers use a real wood veneer cut from a real tree. Real veneers are expensive, can be tricky to build with, and require that a tree be cut down in order to make them. About a year ago I discovered a company that makes artificial, non-toxic wood veneers made from recycled manufacturing byproduct ("waste") and the veneers are perfect. I mean, they look, feel, and act just like a real wood veneer, but come in 4'x8' paper-backed sheets that are much easier to work with than a real veneer.

When I was contacted by a prominent Upper East Side family about building a home office and some hallway bookcases in their 5th Avenue home using Ebony Macassar (a very exotic wood) I knew I had a great opportunity to create a green masterpiece using these new artificial veneers. Fortunately, this client was as eco-conscious as they were stylish and they were immediately on board with the artificial veneer concept. A few days of sketching, a few weeks of building, and a few hours of installation and the office was complete. A few weeks later the 104" tall bookcases were installed and the client, a lawyer, immediately asks if it's possible to build matching ladders for both bookcases using a "green" material. Coincidentally, I had just learned of a storm-fallen Wenge tree that was sitting in a gentleman's backyard for the past 50 years and had recently been sawn and kiln dried so I immediately ordered a quarter-sawn plank that measured 4" thick x 24" wide x 9' long. We had used Wenge for the spindle legs that support the bookcases and home office unit so it was the logical choice for the ladder. Another interesting detail in the ladders is that we recessed black leather into each step. The leather is domestic food byproduct and vegetable-dyed. It was a nice, unexpected detail that worked perfectly with the black strands in the Ebony Macassar veneer.

So without further ado...

The Office: A long work surface with 2 locking file cabinets, plenty of display and shelving space, recessed lighting, and a suspended overhead envelope sorter with custom solid brass spacers. The entire unit is supported on solid Wenge spindle legs in true midcentury modern style.

The Hallway: Matching bookcases at either end of the hallway provide tons of storage and display space and are easily accessible via solid Wenge library ladders. The bookcases, like the office built-in, sit atop solid Wenge spindle legs.