It’s gift-giving season, and once again I’ve found the range of items made of hardwood—from delightfully quirky children’s toys to exquisitely crafted custom furniture—that will help simplify my holiday shopping. Here are six hardwood products I’ve already put on my list, including a big-ticket item I hope someone will give me.
Gregory Buntain and Ian Collings founded their Brooklyn-based design and fabrication studio, Fort Standard, in 2011. Their work relies on structural simplicity and honesty of materials. The duo creates “objects that are unique enough to refresh and simple enough to live forever,” explains Collings. This includes a range of toys for kids of all ages, like these colorful solid-oak Balancing Blocks, faceted stone-size shapes to create your own sculpture. Each set includes ten blocks, tumbled in a water-based paint, and packaged in a cotton drawstring bag. www.areaware.com
Paul Loebach, a furniture designer based in New York City and Berlin, Germany, comes from traditional woodworking background. He applies his hands-on material approach to a design philosophy that covers a range of objects from furniture and lighting, to everyday household products. His solid ash Mother Ann chair is inspired by Shaker furniture, the pure expression of intelligent, high quality American production. Named after the sect’s founder, Ann Lee, the chair’s thoughtful proportions create an elegant and functional form. mattermatters.com
Founded by Cedric Martin in 2013, Pacama Handmade is a Woodstock, New York, studio that specializes in handcrafted furniture. Designs are aesthetically unified through the use of solid Northeastern timber, clean lines, and balanced proportions. Each design exhibits refinement and simplicity of form complemented by the inherent character and beauty of the materials. The Phoebe Credenza, shown with an oxidized oak case, bleached oak front, and brass pulls, is a good example of the studio’s covetable, made-to-order furniture. pacamahandmade.com
Mel Smilow designed and retailed modern furniture through six independently owned stores from 1949 through the late 1970’s. A champion of affordable, finely crafted, contemporary design, Smilow and his work have been recognized and coveted by collectors ever since. Now Judy Smilow has reintroduced her father’s authentic mid-century brand. Among the enduring classics is the Hourglass Table Lamp, a sculptural column of solid walnut with a handcrafted linen and birch-stick shade that casts a warm, inviting glow. www.smilowdesign.com
Karl Zahn, a freelance product and furniture designer in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, explores contemporary materials and historical technologies to create modern hybrids that are more applicable, beautiful, and sustainable. His Animal Boxes—a bull, a bear, a walrus, a llama, a whale, and a rhino made of sustainably harvested new-growth beech wood—are charming figures but also receptacles for small objects. They’re sculptures, totems, and hiding spots all in one. www.karlzahn.com
Woodworker Andrew Pearce, son of renowned glassmaker Simon Pearce, founded his Vermont-based bowl making workshop in 2013. Pearce’s wooden bowls combine the artistic integrity of a hand-turned, hand-finished bowl with the efficiency of a machine-made bowl. Pearce’s process produces very little waste, minimizes environmental impact, and encourages sustainability. His black walnut hand-turned Champlain salad bowl has simple, elegant lines and is hand finished with non-toxic, food-safe, allergen-free walnut oil. andrewpearcebowls.com