How does the saying go? "A hunk of concrete, a slab of wood, and thou?" But that doesn't sound quite right... I think what I really have in mind involves a loaf of bread and jug of wine, but who's to say you couldn't enjoy such a modest repast while sprawled across the re-claimed wood and cast concrete of one of woodworker Douglas Thayer's hand-built benches. Starting with the proposition that there's enough dead wood to go around--thus precluding the need ever to resort to a live harvest--Thayer re-purposes wood from variously and creatively chosen sources, then applies the cumulative efforts of band saw, planer, jointer, and chisel to fashion some of the best looking darned benches I've seen this side of the Mississippi.
Big Joe's Brother Burt. Designed by Douglas Thayer.
That last sentence may find me (born and bread West of the continental divide) guilty of a regional bias, though the evidence may say otherwise--have a look at the creations of other superlative East Coast woodworkers like Bruce Marsh, Eric Manigian, and Roger Benton. Thayer would seem right at home in such illustrative company, granting that the conversation didn't turn to baseball, since Thayer--based in the Western, MA enclave of Westhampton--doubtless has certain allegiances to which the Brooklyn-bound Stine, Manigian, and Benton may take exception.
Wilma. Designed by Douglas Thayer.
Coney Island. Designed by Douglas Thayer.
Leblond. Designed by Douglas Thayer.
N-Series. Designed by Douglas Thayer.
Dan. Designed by Douglas Thayer.
Olivia. Designed by Douglas Thayer.
Weathered. Designed by Douglas Thayer.
Thayer's work evinces a regional aesthetic yet has a broad contemporary appeal. His principal material (sourced everywhere from the well-weathered wood of pickling and wine barrels in South Deerfield, MA to Ipe lumber from the Coney Island Boardwalk) has a pronounced local affiliation yet a timeless aesthetic appeal. Pieces like "Big Joe's Brother Burt"--a hefty slab of heavily-varnished mahogany atop solid cement supports--and "Coney Island Boardwalk"--incorporating the aforementioned Ipe trestles, stainless steel, and formed concrete--feel like real Americana: locally affiliated, yes, but rife with national signification.
Thayer also offers pieces that feel a bit more refined. The "Dan" line (reclaimed redwood, cast concrete, and copper inlay) positions the smaller slabs of wood perpendicular to the bench, creating an impressive symmetry; while "LeBlond" incorporates Jatoba, cast concrete, and stainless steel, each as mirror images of the "graceful inward curve" of the topside wood; the result is a sleek design with a distinctively feminine silhouette.
Each of Thayer's pieces are suitable for indoor or outdoor use. Check them out at this week's AD Home Design Show, March 18 - 21.