Whit McLeod Furniture

Whit McLeod Furniture

Nov 1, 2006

In a previous life Whit McLeod was a wildlife biologist, but today you'll find him at his workshop in the evergreen hamlet of Arcata (which is probably where we'd be if we weren't such confirmed city-lovers), biding his days with a team of four craftspeople, one of them originally trained as a sushi chef.

They do everything themselves, including precision cuts of exclusively salvaged materials, which currently includes a stock of oak quartersawn wine barrels. Techniques include pegged mortise and tenon joinery and steam bending using vintage machinery.

The lines they produce focus on chairs and a range of indoor and outdoor furniture, with pieces for dining, living room and bar. The aestheic influences are clear: McLeod was inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, which brought the romance of handcraft back to an increasingly industrialized world in the early 20th century.

The designs have a distinctly Mission look, which can often feel heavy in a small space. But the beautiful finishes and joinery bump up the aesthetic to a level we're not used to seeing on Mission-style furniture, and we think that a carefully-selected made-to-order or ready-to-ship piece from McLeod would feel incredibly grounding as an accent piece, even in a smallish apartment.

McLeod's team makes good use of all the parts of their salvaged materials: wine barrel staves, which seem like the very bones of the barrels, morph into elegant folding lounging chairs ($145) and benches ($575) with minimal alteration.

The tops of wine caskets become wooden toilet seats (with the winery's label intact).

Other standouts include sturdy-looking upholstered dining chairs with "vertebrae backs" ($1070), pictured on the front page, and space-saving fold-down Vineyard Tables ($2212).

The Bow Arm Chair ($3150), which McLeod's site calls "the very definition of arm chair" has a solidity and timelessness that's alluring even if your aesthetic runs to the more sleekly modern.

McLeod's philosophy is admirable: add something beautiful to the world without taking anything away. He seems an idealist, and he's one who makes a living at it, which we think is quite a feat in this day and age.

Speaking of which, prices are typical for this level of hand-craftmanship and domestic manufacture: on the expensive side.

McLeod's furniture can be seen at his Arcata showroom (advance reservations required) and at several showrooms in Northern California. Orders can be placed through the website or by phone.

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