With an unparalleled reverence for the tree itself, George Nakashima didn’t just design furniture, he gave trees a second life. Born to Japanese immigrant parents in Spokane, Washington, George Nakashima cultivated a love of nature growing up, as well as an interest in architecture, which eventually led him to MIT, followed by stints in France, Japan, and India. Shortly after returning to the United States, Nakashima refocused his energies on building furniture. In 1943 George Nakashima, his wife, and his daughter were interred at Minidoka, Idaho. While there, Nakashima learned traditional Japanese woodworking from another internee. After his release, Nakashima relocated to New Hope, Pennsylvania, where he built a studio and made a name for himself as a furniture maker.
Wabi sabi is the guiding principle to all George Nakashima furniture; each board or slab of wood’s natural shape, color, and grain guide the design. Nakashima furniture often sports a raw or live edge, found on pieces like the single-arm rocking chair. As an innovator in 20th century furniture design, George Nakashima also pioneered the use of the butterfly joint on book-matched tables and utilized cantilevers for chairs and tables. For Knoll, George Nakashima created the Splay-Leg Table and the Straight Chair, both of which have become iconic parts of the Knoll catalog. Preferring to build by hand rather than design for production, George formed George Nakashima Woodworkers, which allowed him to develop a relationship with not only his clients, but also the wood. After his death in 1990, his daughter, Mira Nakashima, took over the company. Today, a Nakashima table or chair will ground your design, whether you’ve got a quiet Mid-Century Modern space or an opulent maximalist wonderland.