“…Wretched refuse yearning to be free…” Emma Lazarus’ words on the base of the Statue of Liberty, in her poetic anthem to our ancestors and an American ideal of freedom. In the material world, and the wood one specifically, the refuse takes the form of discarded stair treads, broken bureaus, miles of bead board and wood shop off-cuts which rarely have a chance of freedom from the landfill. This is the stuff you see leaning on garbage cans or sticking up  over the top of dumpsters. But for pure quality of wood, these woods are hard to match, and surprisingly hard to acquire, harvested as they are in noctural rounds that require their pursuers to stay one step ahead of the trash truck.

The scraps may seem useless, unless you’re intending to piece together strictly functional furniture – an everyday practice in the developing world; or a modern furniture piece- a real rarity in the industrialized world. In New York City, Nadia Yaron and Nadia Scruggs, the design team at Nightwood,  collect and transform this prime material scrap into stunningly beautiful objects that even reflect the city’s diversity and hard knock charm.

Some of their sustainable works have included off-cuts from Sawkil Lumber Co., including reclaimed tank woods from a local brandy distillery and a Broadway theatre watertank. The design team was featured in New York magazine.

‘At Their Feet, Crafted by Hand’

American made shoes are kicking their heals in the air these days, according to a recent NYTimes feature “At Their Feet, Crafted by Hand” (Eric Wilson, 4/20/11). The story follows a recent upswing in buyers of American footwear (sales are up 50%), where only a handful of manufacturers still exist.

‘Trend’ is uneasy word for an industry that relies on a steady customer base. But at $360 for a pair of Allen Edmonds or Alden’s, the price shouldn’t create mass market stampedes. And in the current economy, the market rise can look like an anomaly.

But the news piece doesn’t wear out much shoe leather tracking down the reasons for the rise in high end shoe sales. Though cultural studies professors at FIT weren’t tapped for explanations, they spot some of the appeal, in value. A well cared for pair of top line shoes can last for fifteen years, and Allen Edmonds has a reconstruction program ($90 from heel to toe) that may well keep their shoes going a lifetime.

‘At Their Feet, Crafted by Hand’ could have also been pointing to the reclaimed antique floors (from American made trees) under the foot of these shoes – much of the same quality, process, and pricing fit.

Photo by Darren Hauck for the New York Times


American Rustic













The NY Times Home section (March 24, 2011) featured a story on the appeal of 20th Century American objects – simple, durable and useful (at least at one time). A handful of stores around the city curate a revolving selection, with outposts in Williamsburg, Soho and the East Village. Why a feature piece now? The classic aesthetic may be an antidote to our mass produced and increasingly high-tech (as this web blog) objects and lifestyles. Or a reaffirmation that America was and still is, or can be, a place that reflects the values of the aesthetic, as the country works through economic and social crisis that tend to force questions about core values. Looking back is a ever present resource for a culture going forward. But the piece does not focus on these objects in modern spaces. It celebrates the carefully designed rustic setting, where modern life is reflected as an undercurrent in the subtle juxtapositions of different decades and interesting objects (a separate trend in itself) that have lost functions. Some may question whether nostalgia has it’s hazards beyond a certain point. But there’s no denying it’s place.

There’s also a strong nod to Ralph Lauren for cultivating this branch of fashion in the late 1960’s. The piece is written by Emily Weinstein and includes a beautiful gallery of photos, many with a vintage wood backdrop – the lumber version of American Rustic.

SMC Furnishings


SMC Furnishings, now in its tenth year, is a small New York-based company producing high-quality, handcrafted furniture with eco-friendly methods. Most pieces feature wood from reclaimed building timbers or locally sourced trees that were downed by storms, disease or nuisance issues. The collection features more than 30 original designs that range from elegant to minimal, rough to textured — each inspired by the natural beauty of the wood. An environmental philosophy drives everything at SMC, from making furniture to renovating their facility, to heating the workspace.