Sometimes it feels as if everywhere you turn there’s a brawny coffee table that Paul Bunyan might have hewn. From farmhouse floors lifted from old barns to felled-cedar credenzas chiselled by hand (we get it already), the trend is beginning to feel a bit played out.
That is, however, until you discover Greg Klassen’s riveting river tables. They are made of reclaimed wood, yet the difference lies in the simply ingenious design. Klassen places a wavy sheet of quarter-inch-thick teal glass between two slabs of rough-edged maple, creating what looks like a portal into a clear cerulean sea (or river).
The raw ends of live-edge tables are typically showcased on the outside. Klassen has flipped that concept. “One day when I was planing wood, I noticed that when I put the natural edges on the inside an inspiring shape like a river came about,” he says. The spectacular Nooksack River that runs past his rural workspace in northwest Washington State, in the small city of Bellingham, no doubt provided some subliminal help.
His tables, which also have chic metal legs, are made from discarded trees that Klassen sources himself within a 30-kilometre radius of his studio, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes – linear, round or amoeba. A Victoria law firm recently ordered the longest to date, a 10-foot conference table. Some of the tables are coated in lacquer to prevent them from staining, and all of them sport removable glass for cleaning. Due to an extremely tedious handcrafted process, including a three-year wait for the wood to dry, Klassen has back-up trees for immediate use – the pieces can take up to three weeks to craft.
Klassen built his first prototype table two years ago, but it wasn’t until two months ago that they went viral after the art blog Colossal did a feature on them.
“I’ve started making a ton – this week was insane. I’ve been getting 60 e-mails a week from Dubai to Australia to Singapore, Taiwan, China and Japan,” he said over the phone recently.
His customers, Klassen says, praise the tables because they “are a connection to the beautiful world we live in.” Which is exactly why he isn’t planning to mess with the fuss-free design. “The success of these tables is more about what I don’t do to them, as opposed to what I do. I try to stay out of the way and let nature speak for itself because there’s so much beauty inherent in the wood.”