George Nakashima regarded cabinetry and woodwork as a noble art form – a
view evidenced in the pieces he designed for Knoll. His Splay-Leg Coffee
Table (1946) exhibits his gifted sense of grain, texture and balance. The
veneered walnut or hickory top has a reverse slip-matched cathedral grain,
which allows the table to be placed facing either way. Mortise and tenon
joints and brass hardware secure the top to the angled solid walnut legs,
creating a simple, heirloom-quality modern classic. Nakashima referred to
himself as a “Japanese shaker,” expressing the belief that his designs
should be treated as everyday functional objects, not precious possessions.
The Shaker influence can be noted in his extraordinary skill at crafting
wood, a material he approached with great reverence, saying, “A tree is our
most intimate contact with nature.” A signature plate on the underside of
the table attests to its authenticity. This Table is manufactured by Knoll.
Walnut or hickory veneer; solid walnut; brass hardware.
It is not uncommon to hear of designers who are inspired by the classics and the master designers responsible for them, but George Nakashima was actually inspired by what he considered "bad" architecture and the builders who tried to incorporate too much into their designs.
Although Nakashima held several degrees in architecture (including one from MIT), and employed himself as an architect for a period, he still took time to apprentice in Japanese carpentry during an extended stay overseas. When WWII broke out, Nakashima returned to his U.S. roots and set about reestablishing himself. He took an architectural tour along the Pacific coast and was dismayed by the construction of many celebrated buildings. "They were badly, ignorantly built. The architects were over-specialized and knew nothing about building, like cooks who draw pictures of cakes but cannot make the batter themselves." The extent of his frustration prompted him to take on a design and construction process more in the realm of his control, thus he turned to furniture. Read more >