Ones to Watch
Against the Grain
4 on-the-pulse chairs that showcase the timeless beauty of wood through future-facing design approaches
In a recent edition of House Beautiful, Martha Stewart was cited as a cheerleader for the return of old school wood to au courant interiors. According to America’s enduring icon of tastemaking, “What’s old is new again… brown furniture is alive and well.”
All devotion to Ms. Stewart aside, we never noticed a serious decline in the kind of mid-century modern design language that’s supposedly poised to make a comeback this year. In fact, in our humble opinion, the truly newsworthy energy brewing around wood furniture is entirely an expression of the here and now, emerging from the contemporary studios of innovative talents who have reinvented the craft of woodworking for the 21st century.
Scroll on to discover four outstanding examples of on-the-pulse chairs that showcase the timeless beauty of wood through future-facing design approaches.
The long and fruitful career of French wood master Fabien Dubrunfaut began when he left the Ecole d'Architecture de Lille for woodworking apprenticeship. Over the ensuing decades, he practiced his craft mainly in the US, working for a handful of small workshops specialized in high quality architectural millwork and cabinetry. In 2019, he decided he had designs of his own he wanted to realize and moved his family back to France to launch his own studio. Today, he’s dedicated to producing one-of-kind chairs handcrafted in American hardwoods. His highly precise joinery reveals his roots in traditional woodworking, but his dynamic sculptural forms capture the boundary-defying spirit of 21st-century collectible design.
Born in the German countryside near the Swiss border and based in an old factory in the center of Maastricht, Valentin Loellmann possesses an uncanny talent for using his hands to sculpt a range of materials into striking, sumptuous forms. One such example is this spindle-back chaise longue, which appears to magically merge metal and wood into one unified material. The process isn’t easy. Loellmann meticulously shapes and attaches each oak and brass component to the underlying framework, one by one, until the illusion is achieved.
Inspired by the wastefulness she witnessed during her former career in fashion, Sam Klemick’s LA-based furniture design practice employs time-honored craft techniques to find a new life for salvaged materials, deadstock textiles, and discarded furniture—items otherwise destined for landfills. Her Bell Chair, for example, comprises all upcycled materials, from the hand-turned fir frame to the black and white patterned cushions. In Kelmick’s hands, unwanted raw materials become chic designs worthy of any interior.
The work of Prague-based artist, designer, maker, and researcher Vadim Kibardin hits the sweet spot between technology, craftsmanship, functionality, expression, and social responsibility. As a pioneer of circular design, Kibardin has developed a fabrication technique that utilizes the underexploited properties of everyday cardboard packaging waste. Each piece in his Paper Chair collection is hand-sculpted using discarded cardboard parts held together with his proprietary rice paste glue. To date, he claims the project has made use of 2350 pounds of discarded cardboard, along the way saving 20 trees that have absorbed 305 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year. No wonder the Financial Times dubbed the project “collectible, sculptural furniture that breaks the mold.”