Toeing the line between furniture and sculpture, George Naskashima’s wood creations are all the things we love most: artful, statement-making, and organic modern-cool. Inspired by both his Pacific Northwest upbringing and his Japanese heritage, Nakashima adhered to the philosophy that every tree (and every part of the tree) had a perfect use, and it was the woodworker’s task to find it. In the same vein, Nakashima embraced wood with knots, nicks, and splits, choosing to believe they added character—starting to see why we’re mega-fans? With an undeniably spiritual approach to his work, and a backstory that’s nothing short of inspiring (Nakashima first learned the art of woodworking while imprisoned at a Japanese internment camp in Idaho during WWII), Nakasima’s pieces conjure up feelings of harmony, tranquility, and out-and-out awe.
You Likely Know Him For:
His transcendent live edge tables and minimalist-meets-Shaker-style chairs, which prove he wrote the book on organic naturalism. While most would peg the origins of organic modernism to 1970s-era Big Sur, the trend can be squarely linked back to Nakashima, who beginning in the 1940s utilized burled woods, delicate butterfly joints and bowling alley-esque slabs of wood to create stunning, one-of-a-kind furniture. Beyond one-off commissions, Nakashima also created a line of Windsor-inspired chair for Knoll (as shown in the photo below). Although the Knoll chair was created for mass production, it still manages to show the woodworking master’s indelible touch.
Where You’ll Spot His Work Today:
Michael Kors’s Long Island beach home sports a George Nakashima chaise, Laura Dern’s woodsy, Mid-Century Los Angeles home showcases a live-edge dining table surrounded by George Naskashima dining chairs, and Aerin Lauder’s Aspen home has a bit of Nakashima in almost every room. Besides a cadre of celeb fans, his pieces also reside in the permanent collections of both the New York Metropolitan Museum and the Smithsonian Institute. Additionally, thanks to his daughter Mira having taken over the Nakashima workshop after his death, new furniture bearing the Nakashima style and name is still available today.
Lead photo by Eric Piasecki / OTTO