A We Love DC Interview: Lucas Furniture Design

Nathan Lucas of Lucas Furniture Design.

Each piece of furniture tells a story.  Some stories may be more romantic than others, while the majority of stories are never told at all.  I am not saying that my antiqued wooden chest talks to me at night about its feelings, however, I do sometimes find myself wondering about the life it lead before I salvaged it from a junkyard. Furniture plays a much larger role in our lives than we care to notice.  Without it, we feel bare, but with it, we are provided with numerous opportunities to personalize our space – a behavior that all humans, in one way or another, engage in.  We personalize our space as a way to inform outsiders about who we really are (or who we we want you think we are) inside.

As society continues to place more emphasis on sustainability, the field of custom furnishings has become a growing facet.  I had the unique opportunity to meet Nathan Lucas of Lucas Furniture Design to find out more about his labor of love in DC.

Wedding Present for my Brother, Coffee Table in White Oak and Unknown Species with Ebony Inlay, Lucas Furniture Design.

We Love DC:  What is Lucas Furniture Design?

Nathan Lucas: Lucas Furniture Design is a woodworking studio offering custom furniture, cabinetry and art/design services.

WLDC:  What makes your furniture collection stand out amongst the rest?

NL: The thing that I feel sets my work apart from the rest, or that I have been told, is the attention I put into small details.  Every little edge is specially hand-planed or sanded, so that it feels good to touch.  I also have access to wood suppliers who salvage urban trees that were blown down in storms, or cut down to disease.  Not only is this the  “greenest” material I have found, but I also find that it has more character than big forest wood.

WLDC:  What is your process?

NL: There are a few different processes I utilize when designing. In custom work, a piece is made to fit a specific space or function, so we work from fixed dimensions. This process will go from thumbnail sketches to a scale drawing and sometimes to a computer rendering. Other times, great pieces have come from a five-minute sketch and whatever materials are on hand at the time. When working organic there is usually no sketch, the idea is to work the wood in harmony with its existing lines.

WLDC:  Who are your favorite designers (local, national, historical) – how do they inspire you?

NL: My favorite designers are the artists out there who are pushing their style forward with determination, to do something new in a time when it seems as though its all been done before. Historically speaking, true masters such as James Krenov and George Nakashima will never go out of style.

Detail of Waterfall Ends, Lucas Furniture Design.

WLDC: If you could only have one piece of furniture – what would it be and why?

NL: If I were to have only one piece of furniture, it would have to be a very sturdy large coffee table with drawers and shelves for storage.

WLDC:  What, in your opinion, is the biggest mistake people make when purchasing furniture?

NL: My advise on furnishing your home is to buy the best you can afford. If you can afford custom or high end, than go for it. If you are on a budget, then buy used from online posts and flea markets. Or even hit your local ally because you could end up finding that chair you needed. Most old furniture is superior in quality when compared to the mass produced stuff out there today. Furniture should last for years and not be disposable. If you know someone who is knowledgeable, take them shopping with you.

WLDC:  What about DC excites you?

NL: DC is exiting because it has so many museums and different cultures to experience. It is a good place to gain a bit of world perspective on a daily basis.

D&M Modern Kitchen, Lucas Furniture Design.

WLDC:  Where do you go to find inspiration in DC? Does that translate into your work (if so, how)?

NL: A trip to the Renwick Gallery to see works by Sam Maloof and Wendell Castle always make me want to step up my game.

WLDC:  What are your favorite furniture stores in the DC-area?

NL: I can’t say that I have a favorite furniture store in DC right now, being that I usually make my own furniture. However, in the future, I would like to find a store or gallery to represent my work, so most likely then I will have a favorite.

WLDC:  What are you working on now? Do you have any new projects?

NL: My main project right now is setting up a new shop space in Laytonsville MD. After that, I have some custom projects in planning.  Furthermore, I am always working on my own furniture/art line. I would love for my work to become a concept for a gallery show.

D&M Modern Kitchen, Detail of Reconstituted Masacar Ebony, Lucas Furniture Design.

WLDC:  Do you have any advice for an aspiring furniture designer?

NL: My advise to aspiring furniture designers is to work with an established professional after design school or intern between semesters. Making sure you understand how to build an object is essential to the design phase, and you will pick up some business knowledge.  As with any form of art, even the most talented do not usually reach their true potential until investing at least ten years in your trade.

WLDC:  Where can someone purchase your creations?

NL: To inquire about commissioning a piece or purchasing existing work visit my website at lucasfurnituredesign.com.

Samantha can often be found daydreaming by the Rothkos of the East Gallery, sketching store facades along 14th, and snapping photos with her vintage polaroid at 9:30 club concerts. Since moving to DC in 2007 to get an MFA in Interior Design, her eyes can’t seem to be peeled away from the beautiful things in this city. Send any visual art, architecture, or design related news her way via Samantha (at) WeLoveDC.com

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