The Family Table (and Chairs)

When we decided to remodel the kitchen and dining room, I knew that it was also time for a new dining table. The Danish Modern look of our old table was not going to work in our new space. (We did repurpose it as a homework/craft table for our kids, but that’s the subject of another post!) My husband and I have always loved the beautifully worn look of wood farm tables, but we were also hoping to add a touch of industrial chic to the new dining room. I wanted an aged wood top with an industrial metal base. I looked at many furniture stores, and quickly determined that we needed a handmade one from reclaimed wood. Every table I saw in a furniture store was made of wood that lacked character or was too dried-out looking. Nothing I saw had any soul, any personality. I spent hours upon hours looking at handmade tables online and found this:

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And this:

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And this:

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I fell in love with the look and texture and thickness of the wood of the dining tables. I also loved the unfinished metal base of the coffee tables. I reached out to Bryan Black of Concepts Created, the craftsman who made all of the tables above, and he told me, much to my disappointment, that he was no longer able to acquire any more of the amazing 3″ thick wood used in the dining tables, which had been reclaimed from a 1901 addition to James Madison’s house. But I could tell from talking with him that he completely understood my vision. In the many photos on his Facebook page, I could see that the woods he was using and the his style of craftsmanship were just what I was looking for. ┬áSo when he suggested I come to his workshop to see the other woods he had available, I decided that the two and a half hour drive was worth it. One day in late July, my oldest daughter and I took a little road trip to Staunton, Virginia. (Side note: if you ever have the opportunity to road trip alone with just one of your kids, do it! It turned out to be one of the best days ever with my daughter.)

We drove up to this lovely workshop next to a picturesque Victorian house to meet Bryan and his family.

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We looked at wood that looked like this

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And this

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while his daughter and mine went out back to look at the chickens.

Seeing what the wood looked like “before” was amazing. The piece next to the blue notebook in the bottom photo had been charred in a fire, during its previous life as a ceiling joist in a warehouse in Manhattan, built in the 1880’s. This was the wood we ended up choosing.

I had brought along samples of everything – my countertop, tile, hardwood floor, even one of my dining chairs- so that I could choose the right finish. I vacillated for a long time (Bryan was very patient) and ended up choosing a finish called “Early American” – maybe it was the name that sold me.

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As the kids played, we worked out all the details. We decided on a Parsons style table with a 3 inch thick wood top and an unfinished steel frame. The perfect mix of rustic and industrial. Bryan assured us that the tabletop would have the personality we were looking for – knots, variation in color and grain, saw marks and other indications of the history of the wood, all while being a functional table for my family.

After that, my daughter and I went off to explore Staunton, a wonderful small town. I even got to try on wooden shoes at the Frontier Culture Museum (they are surprisingly comfortable!)

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Then, in early October, Bryan arrived at my house with this. I could not have been more thrilled. It is everything we dreamed it would be. It is our family table. It will outlive me, I am quite sure.

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The center boards are a darker color from having been charred in the fire in the warehouse they were part of. Bryan also showed us the end of each board and helped us see where it had been in the tree. The board that is second from the right was from a tree that Bryan (judging from the number of very closely packed rings) estimated was 6 feet across! If the warehouse was built in the 1880’s, the trees that made these boards were planted quite a while before that, making this wood 200+ years old.

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The chairs are an assembled set of vintage Good Form chairs from the 1950’s. I have two that were purchased from the Georgetown Flea Market in DC about 8 years ago, and had been on the lookout for more ever since. This summer, I had the good fortune to come across six more on Etsy. (Check out the picture below of them posing in a Chicago alley before they made their way here.) They are quite possibly the best chairs ever. Originally designed for the military, they are super strong (perfect for standing on to change lightbulbs) and comfortable. They are also surprisingly lightweight and look amazing despite their age. They are the perfect companions to the table.

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Here is Bryan’s signature brand on the underside of the table. The shell motif is from his family crest – he is a descendant of the ship’s carpenter on the Mayflower. I love it – it is a reminder to me that Bryan and his family and their history are a part of the history of the table. I am as grateful for the wonderful experience of having the table made as I am for the table itself.

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Table by Concepts Created (Bryan and Susan Black), www.ConceptsCreated.com

4 thoughts on “The Family Table (and Chairs)

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