Leader of the Live Edge

George Nakashima was the architect/designer/philosopher behind the current fashion for live edge furniture.

By Kristin Belz November 13, 2012 Published in the November 2012 issue of Portland Monthly


George Nakashima's furniture, like the chair and table here, are functional expressions of the simple, timeless beauty of a tree.

Live edge furniture is all the rage right now. You've probably seen it at a coffee shop or restaurant that's been built within the past few years: tables, counters and desktops that flaunt their rough, natural, irregular timber edges as a design element of the piece, rather than trimming off all the wood to straight lines. (We visited some local examples in a previous At Home post.)

The incentive isn't laziness on the part of the woodworker. The live edge is a beautiful contrast to the otherwise clean, crisp lines of a piece of highly refined wood furniture, and a reminder of where that wonderful wood came from. In an age of digital and industrial precision, the live edge is strikingly gorgeous.

George Nakashima was the godfather of this appreciation and celebration of the live edges of wood in finely crafted modernist furniture. Nakashima was born in Spokane in 1905 and died at age 85. His daughter Mira now carries on the family legacy, i.e. the iconic furniture making company, in the same Bucks County, PA town they've been in since she was a child and her dad started his own business after the Second World War.

Now, she and others have put together an extensive exhibit on Nakashima's long, fascinating careerGeorge Nakashima: A Master's Furniture and Philosophy runs to January 20, 2013 at Seattle's Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience. The exhibit traces the roots and evolution of Nakashima's sensitive use of the natural timber he grew up surrounded by, as a child on the Olympic Peninsula. 

The Wing Luke Museum is located in Seattle's Chinatown-International District:
719 South King Street
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 623-5124
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 am - 5 pm
First Thursday and third Saturday of each month, 10 am - 8 pm 

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