It’s always exciting when a young furniture maker uses time-tested craft techniques and regionally sourced woods to produce beautiful, practical pieces that reference classic American forms but feel fresh and modern. That’s certainly the case with Jason Rokey, founder of Fern Handcrafter Furniture in New York’s Hudson Valley. On a recent visit to Fern’s light and airy storefront showroom in historic Hudson, NY, I was particularly impressed with Jason’s deft handling of a variety of American walnuts, which he loves because of their singular color, distinctive grain, and easy workability. He gives these woods a contemporary twist without losing their traditional deep-toned luster. Here are three of my favorite walnut pieces by Jason.
Simple and elegant, the Founders Dining Table is Jason’s up-to-date take on that old favorite, the sawbuck-style table. Its well-judged proportions, exquisite mortise-and-tenon joinery, and Eastern Black Walnut top mean it’s as aesthetically pleasing as it is functional. Eastern, or American, Black Walnut grows from the Northeast, down through the Midwest, and to the Southwest as far as Texas; Jason sources his from small mills around the Hudson Valley and Western Massachusetts.
With its clean lines, variegated front, and leather pulls, the Spring Credenza is a compelling mix of the sleek and the rustic. Here Jason uses Claro Walnut, the common lumber-industry name that includes such West Coast varieties as California Walnut, Bastogne Walnut, and Oregon Black Walnut. These woods tend to be highly figured with a rich brown color and striking grain patterns—perfect for the credenza’s sophisticated barn-siding aesthetic. Jason sources his Claro Walnut from suppliers in Northern California and Portland, Oregon, where it is typically harvested from urban trees and sustainable orchards.
“I've always been drawn to oversize club-style chairs,” Jason says. “The Sawyer Lounge Chair is our attempt to design a comfortable armchair using only wood.” Mission accomplished, as I can attest. Using Eastern Black Walnut at its most characterful, he’s produced a seat that’s as easy to sit in as it is handsome to look at. Just don’t take it onto the porch—one of walnut’s few limitations is that it’s not suitable for outdoor furniture.
Fern Handcrafted Furniture
243 Warren Street
Hudson, NY 12534