Every piece of furniture tells a story. We talked with three local furniture makers and woodworkers—Jeanne Wolfer from Pacific Rim Woodworking, Carol Jackson from Carol Jackson Furniture, and Sheri Wayt from Urban Lumber Company—to find out what’s driving today’s trends in local wood furniture.
Light and dark
Wayt says she sees a lot of interest in oak and lighter woods.
“This isn’t your grandmother’s oak furniture,” she says. “It’s large, grounded pieces that can be the centerpiece of the room, often naturally oxidized to create darker tones like chocolate or charcoal. We also see a demand for light washes in soft white or neutrals, which allow the natural grains to emerge through the color.”
Mixing materials is also popular, Jackson says. She uses her education in physics, mathematics, and architecture to guide her designs, which combine wood with stone, metal, or concrete. Stylistic touches like matte finishes, curves, asymmetry, and Art Deco influences are trending too, she adds.
“Ebonized wood is also expected to be big,” Jackson says. “Ebonizing is a process of dyeing a wood black and is typically used with an open-grained wood like oak or ash, because it allows the grain to show.”
Local & lasting
“The trend is quality over quantity,” Wayt says. “People want their dream table, and they want it to last a lifetime. They want local and lasting.”
Local, for Urban Lumber Company, starts with trees sourced not in the forest but in the city. Urban Lumber salvages urban trees, including black walnut, maple, oak, elm, and redwood. City trees turn out to be great for furniture, Wayt says, because a lack of competition means the trees can grow tall and wide.
At their 2,000-square-foot showroom and 30,000-square-foot shop in the historic Booth Kelly Mill in Springfield, Urban Lumber designs and crafts pieces in part on a band saw nicknamed “Black Sabbath.” One of the largest band saws in North America, it can saw logs that are up to eight feet wide.
Customers are looking for meaning in every piece of furniture, Jackson says. “The people I talk to are looking for clean lines and high-quality, handcrafted furniture. They address sustainability by owning fewer items but selecting those that will endure through their lifetime.”
Sustainable & VOC-free
From their West Eugene shop, Pacific Rim Woodworking has been handcrafting solid maple bedroom furniture since 1981. They source their maple from sustainably managed forests throughout Oregon and Washington.
“We’re into sustainability and trying to use wood that’s recyclable,” Wolfer says. “We try to use as much as we can of our wood. If we don’t use it on one thing, we use it on another.”
Sustainable and natural also extend to how Pacific Rim finishes their products—or doesn’t finish them.
“A lot of customers want VOC-free finishes, so we use a hand-rubbed oil finish,” Wayt says. “No stains—you’re going to see the wood and its natural color. Some people don’t want any finish, due to sensitivities to chemicals, paints, or medical conditions. We made a bed for a kid who had epilepsy, and the bed was just wood and metal for the fasteners, not even any glue.”
Customized & unique
Natural materials make a personal statement. And when we polled these woodworkers about what customers asked about the most over the past year, personality topped the list.
“Unique design,” Jackson says, and often one paired with a clear concept and an underlying story.
“Say a tree comes down in a storm,” Wayt adds. “A customer may want a table from that tree, because it means something to them. People in Lane County have emotional connections to their trees.”
Woodworkers can produce custom or personalized designs that fit a customer’s budget. “Custom” can be as simple as working with the particular dimensions of a space in the customer’s home.
“There’s a perception that ‘custom’ is unaffordable, and that’s not true,” Wayt says. “We ask for their dream, discuss what woods are affordable, talk about their home, and we work within their budget. Clients are often surprised at how satisfying it is to design exactly what they have envisioned and, in the end, receive a handmade piece that will last a lifetime.”
Urban Lumber, 303 S 5th St., Suite 127, Springfield, 541/762-2256, urbanlumbercompany.co
Pacific Rim Woodworking, 1745 W 5th Ave., Suite A, 541/342-4508, pacificrimwoodworking.com