Getting into a new grain

Seiji and Himali Kuwabara, In Element Designs
Together, this duo focuses on the kind of furniture that will create a healing and peaceful environment. They agree that their work is infl uenced by the minimalism of Zen principles, but they also look to the elegance of Italian design. Form follows function as the key principle the Kuwabaras feel strongly about, and they never divorce practical needs from any design they create. Tables have hidden shelves or drawers that move clutter out of sight. The range of their creations is extensive: lamps, bed frames, tables, decorative accessories, cabinets, chairs, counters, and shelves, often made from their wood of choice, American black walnut. The newly opened Alto Café in Yaletown (1207 Hamilton Street) is the latest commercial environment where the Kuwabaras have integrated wood in an overtly natural form (a log acts as a coffee serving platform, for example), yet they've given it an ultra-smooth finish that blends seamlessly with the contemporary look of the space. See their work at

Derek Young
Young's ultra-laminated Baltic birch creations veer off the traditional path altogether. "I see myself as a do-it-yourself industrialist, rather than a woodworker," he explains. Young builds tables: nested coffee tables, end tables, and shelving units. The pieces are modular and hail from the silhouette of a single telephone table he created to fi t his phone book. Although he has no formal woodworking or furniture-building experience (Young holds an engineering degree), his foray into the craft has resulted in a fresh approach to table design and a unique perspective on the beauty of plywood. Young explains that he uses a "CNC router to create a high-effi ciency nested pattern, which results in maximum material yield". The cuts produce four different-sized shapes that are then laminated together into stacks. The stacks are sanded and fi nished, and hardware, also made by Young, is attached. (His prices range from $290 for a small side table up to $1,400 for a coffee table bench.) What Young has ultimately created is a novel use for a typically mundane material, underscoring its undulating grain and retaining a natural randomness in the look of his work. (Check out his pieces at

Doug Lane
Lane's work runs the gamut from commercial environments to condo-detailing to all types of freestanding furniture. His use of woods is just as diverse. His studio contains woods ranging from driftwood to an old ceiling joist to reclaimed walnut planks. The common thread is that all these woods come from salvaged and sustainable sources. The Feast Table he's designed exemplifi es his style and philosophy. It's made of three planks, with the middle one slightly elevated to act as a serving area. The steel details bring it a contemporary look, and yet Lane retains the raw nature of the boards so that they can "read on their own". Lane's work often displays the history of the material: he gestures at one ceiling joist he found and explains how the saw marks are an integral part of the board's heritage. Over time, colour has worked its way into the irregularities of the wood, and Lane plays up these attributes too. On the other end of the spectrum, he also experiments with paint, using colour fields that contrast with unpainted areas of wood and turn them into highlights. Lane's work is resolutely contemporary in appearance, but its eclecticism makes his style a bit more difficult to pinpoint. Check his pieces out at the Granville Island Wood Co-op, or go to

Enrico Konig, Kurve Studio Furniture
Kíƒ ¶nig walks across the curlicues of wood shavings on his workshop's fl oor to show the Straight a few of his pieces at Kurve Studio Furniture. A far cry from the folksy carvings often mistakenly associated with homegrown woodworkers, his designs use the intrinsic beauty of the wood grain and simple forms with gentle curves to create contemporary furniture. Self-taught and at it for almost 10 years, Kíƒ ¶nig applies high-quality standards from top to bottom: hand-cut dovetails on all drawers, magnets embedded in doors so nothing breaks the rounded lines, meticulous hardware details. His collections focus on freestanding furniture (armoires, bed frames, cabinets, and tables) and are never overtly decorative. Understated ornamentation comes courtesy of fi gured woods such as curly maple, curly walnut, and western maple (the latter native to British Columbia); Kíƒ ¶nig concentrates on bringing out the character within the wood, playing with the grain patterns. Kíƒ ¶nig's sweetest commission to date? A two-year stint in a wood shop located approximately 100 metres from a Swiss chocolate factory. He had free reign-over the chocolate. To see a few Kurve showpieces, visit the Wood Co-op on Granville Island (1592 Johnston Street) or check out