Fling With Furnishing
By Catherine Noel
In front of me in the bright July sunlight is an unassuming gray and green metal building. This is the home of Bear Kat Wood, Fine Woodworking in southern Oregon. I am on a quest to find a piece of furniture, specifically a sitting chair. I am not particular, any old thing to sit in will be fine.
Inside I am surrounded floor to ceiling and wall to wall with all of the implements of wood. Saws, tools, wood, sawdust, and signage all work to immerse the visitor in the world of wood. Even the air is tinged with the smell of fresh cut wood, and the slightest hint of oil and finish products. Around me are scattered absolute beautiful works of art in various stages of completion. The furniture is randomly intermixed with scraps of plywood, planes, large saws and every size imaginable of wood pieces, from large colorful slabs cut in large thick sections down to the fine dust that is coating every surface I see.
This is not a clean well laid furniture store with casually thrown shawls, it is a working furniture shop. No interior decorator has done due diligence to present the perfect motif. This is wood from humble beginnings into furniture that we all use every day.
Near the wall across from me a particular black walknut chair grabs my attention. It's sculpted form flows with natural beauty. Smooth lines and gentle curves undulate in a balanced dance with the natural shades and colors of the wood. This simple chair is alive with movement and purpose. I run my fingers softly over the gentle curve of the nearest arm. It is a sculptural piece that belongs in a museum. People should see it, often.
“Have a seat”, the owner Bear tells me.
I'm remiss to disturb such perfect beauty. “It's so beautiful, can I sit in it?”
“Absolutely. That's why we build 'em.”
I can't imagine something so lovely and visually pleasing to also be comfortable to sit in. As I slide back into the seat my arms rest naturally on the chair arms. I feel as if I've just received a hug from a very dear friend, one I've known and enjoyed their company for a long time. Every part of my body is supported as if this chair was designed and built specifically with me in mind.
“It's wonderful.” I say closing my eyes. The chair is solid wood, but I feel perfectly cradled in its perfect form. “I could sit here all day.” I say relaxing into the hug of the chair just a little more.
Bear smiles understanding. “It's designed so that you will want to do just that.” Bear says. “Over here I'm building a dining chair. It is designed in a way that will be comfortable as you sit at the table to a nice meal, but the back is a little straighter, the seat flatter and higher, so that you won't want to stay too long. If you know what I mean?”
I understand what he is saying I think about the design aspect and our relationship with the furniture in our lives. There is a natural philosophy behind the design of furniture. A dining chair is designed to give the feeling you are visiting the table. You should initially be comfortable, but you shouldn't want to live there. Its made to welcome it's visitors and then send them on their way. The sitting chair is different, it should give you the feeling that all your cares are gone and that you do want to live there. It is the piece you sit in while enjoying an all night talk, or sitting peacefully contemplating life and all of its idiosyncracies.
I think about other pieces of furniture and what my relationship is with them. A high bar is uplifting, a piece to encourage fun and laughter. It raises you up above your usual self just a little. I always feel like it is a special lunch date or a meeting with good cocktails when I sit at a high bar. Conversely the kitchen table is compatible with the dining char like visiting a friend or loved one, a comfortable and unassuming piece. The kitchen table is not judgemental, it accepts me as I am and is good at keeping secret the bit of extra around my middle or the unpalatable fruitcake spit into a napkin. Though it has a time limit and it's important to never overstay your welcome. Hall tables are shallow and off to the side, things we merely glance at in passing, yet nice to set a special vase or a bit of color to encourage those walking through. They are much like that fancy neighbor we greet a little too exuberantly and get away from quickly in our embarrassment. Whereas bedside tables receive a lot of attention from their owners. They are a self contained nook to keep our personal items, specific to us. My bedside table is almost like a tiny ark. I keep anything that I think I made need off hand in the middle of the night there. It keeps my implements of inspiration safe from the prying world. My bedside table is a piece of furniture that I protect jealously from the world. The furniture I own for working is perfect for four and one half hours in the morning and four and one half hours in the afternoon, five days a week. Then my chairgoes under the desk or the stool goes under the workbench, put away until the next time I clock in. It is utilitarian in nature and designed with practical usage in mind. Writing utensils go to the right, I'm right handed, book holder to the left, so I can type while reading, etc. The chair is comfortable enough and the stool also. Though all of these items are worn, work gets done here, so I feel like I am meeting up with co-workers when I sit down and I don't really want to see them after the day is done.
The wonderfully sculpted sitting chair I sit in now is a piece I want to come home to. It is a piece of furniture I want to share my morning cup of tea or coffee with. I want to share my evening libation in this chair while I let the rest of the world wait, be still, just for me. I want to see this chair on weekends and holidays, share my joy and my sorrows while I sit here. This is a long term relationship, not one I will be taking lightly. It is strange how I came here with certain expectations and have found so much more than I realized I could. We never quite know how or when a relationship will start, this chair has pleasantly surprised me.
I sigh, let my worries sink deep into the dark depths of black walnut, and easily rise to face the day with a smile. This one is coming home with me.