Out of Woods
Salvaged trees come of age as stunning live edge furniture.
For lovers of all things natural, nothing says nature like live edge furniture—tables, desks, headboards and benches that reveal a cross section of the tree from whence it came.
“You can sit down at your table and spend a lot of time counting the rings to see how old the tree is,” says Eric Miller of Ozma Design (ozmadesign.com), a wood workshop in Fort Lauderdale that specializes in live edge and burl wood furniture.
Live edge has been around for as long as woodworkers have created furniture, but it gained attention in the 1940s when designer George Nakashima introduced it into modern furniture. Today, live edge is definitely on trend.
“People are seeing it in magazines, in all sorts of media,” says Eric Horner of Eric Horner Interiors in Orlando. In addition, he says, people are finding it in their travels “and falling in love with it.”
Although some artisans create planters, lamps and other pieces, most live edge furniture consists of flat surfaces.
“You can’t build a chair out of this stuff,” Miller says. “You’d have points and things sticking out where you didn’t want them.”
Like many live edge furniture makers, Miller uses slabs of reclaimed hardwood such as maple, walnut, redwood and pine. Suppliers obtain the wood from construction sites where trees had to come down, for example, or from trees felled by storms.
Endever Furniture + Design in Austin, Texas (left; endeverfurniture.com), gets most of its wood from growers in the Texas Hill Country, says Stephen Newburg, who recently opened an Endever office in Orlando.
Both companies conduct most of their business online, emailing design ideas and photos back and forth with customers. Once a design is agreed upon, the wood is purchased and the handcrafting begins.
“To get live edge to be appropriate for furniture application, it does take a deft hand and a considerable amount of time to hand-plane the wood,” says Newburg, whose partner, Brian Ender, creates each piece of furniture in Austin and ships it to buyers. “The challenge is getting wood that has some minor level of symmetry so it doesn’t look like it came from two different trees.”
Ozma partners Eric Miller and Sean Kearns work on each live edge piece together, doing several levels of sanding. The idea is to keep the wood in as natural a state as possible, Miller says, “but sometimes we have to shape the outside, make a cut here and there, because of room size.”
The finishing touch is a coating that depends on where the piece will live—indoors or out, near water or in bright sunlight. Coatings range from sealants and stains to polyacrylic finishes and varnishes.
Delivery times average six to eight weeks, with prices running from $600 to $2,000 and up, depending on the furniture size and design, and the thickness, species and shape of the wood.
Live edge furniture offers uniqueness and authenticity, says designer Horner, as well as something akin to a piece of art. Adds Miller: “We tell customers it’s probably going to be in your family for a couple of generations.”