Raw Beauty: The Rise of Live-Edge Furniture
Doing double duty as functional furniture and bespoke works of art, live-edge designs continue to grow in popularity in 2019. “Live edge” refers to the living part of the tree with its outer rings, knots and beauty marks exposed. Only the bark is removed, leaving a natural edge —“warts and all.”
Imperfections in the wood are desirable for this particular aesthetic and add character. By turning salvaged wood into one-of-a-kind home furnishings, this rough, raw finish is all about bringing the outdoors in. They're also often crafted from salvaged trees.
“The natural edge was different than anything else I had seen on the market from a furniture standpoint,” Jeff Mack, founder of Jeff Mack Designs said.
Live-edge furniture is popular in both residential and commercial settings, as clients and designers value the uniqueness of the finished product. “It's still exciting when a new load of live-edge comes in because no two pieces are the same,” Mack said.Courtesy of Jeff Mack Designs
The furniture can be made from a variety of tree species to match an existing look in your home to achieve the desired vision. “Walnut is by far the most popular species I see right now,” Mack said. “I also see the lighter species such as ash and oak starting to gain some traction and popularity.”
So what goes into turning a tree into a live edge piece? First, the log needs to be cut into slabs and dried in a special kiln. Once the slabs are dry and stable to use, they need to be surfaced; surfacing removes all the rough saw marks on the top and bottom of each slab from the sawmilling process. After the slab has been surfaced, it's ready to be sanded and finished. The pieces are rubbed with oil to help seal in moisture and protect the wood.This coffee table features mappa burl with a blue resin river. Courtesy of Jeff Mack Designs.
If you're looking to take your live-edge piece to the next level, consider filling in the natural crevices of the slab with epoxy or glass to create the illusion of a “river”—this is Mack's most popular request these days. The entire process for a dining room table takes approximately four to six weeks from the initial meeting with a potential client to finished product.Photo by Atanas Tsvetkov on Unsplash
Before committing to any piece of your own, Mack suggests you do some research on different local makers. Visit several shops to see samples of their previous work and be sure to sift through a few online reviews.
“It’s important to make sure you know the wood has been dried properly,” said Mack, adding this is the key to a successful live edge piece. Be sure to also ask about the finish options available—you want to be certain the finish the maker uses is appropriate for your furniture application.Courtesy of Jeff Mack Designs
Not ready to splurge on a dining room table? There are a number of other cost-effective, subtle ways to adopt this trend—like live edge shelving, a custom wine rack (perfect if you're tight on floor space) or charcuterie board.
At the end of the day, your live edge piece should compliment your space and add to (not overpower) the personality of your home.