I think most of us feel an innate connection to wood. Homebuyers can't help but run their hands across a live edge wood surface that has been carefully incorporated into a home’s design. Many of us who choose to live in the Catskills and Hudson Valley regions call ourselves "tree huggers". Sometimes this is because of our desire to protect our natural environment, sometimes it's also because we like to hug trees. Literally. I’ve been known to give a tree a good tight squeeze. I also grew up with a woodworker – the smell of wood shavings is the smell of my childhood. Wood and me are like THIS.
So, when I recently had the opportunity to meet a kindred spirit I was ecstatic. This was someone who loves wood too – probably even more than I do! Megan Offner of NY Heartwoods. I’ve been following Megan’s company for a while. A few years back I came across this lovely short film by H&M Conscious Films that featured Megan. Back then her company was based in Warwick. A couple of years ago she moved her headquarters to Kingston NY, where she found both a great place to work and a place to really call home. Last week she graciously answered all my questions about her new product line, her process, and her move to Kingston, while I had a fan girl moment.
Me: How are you!!!!????
Megan: Busy, you know we just launched our first product line last week. We've been doing a lot of custom work for the last several years. And then I brought in a furniture maker, just to help out with a couple of projects, and he turned out to be brilliant and we get along famously. So he's now a partner in the business and we've just built our first full line.
Me: I’m so curious to know what you did before this? What was your path to becoming the savior of fallen trees?
Megan: Well I grew up in Montana. When I was growing up there were a lot of clear cuts, that was still a common practice. I moved to Portland for college, and then I ended up in New York City for 10 years and my career was doing set design and styling for fashion and advertising print media. So, I would create a façade for an image, and then at the end of the day all of those materials, for the most part, would end up in the dumpster. That connection between deforestation, a tree being cut down so that I could build something that would last the day, or maybe a week, and then just be thrown away bothered me. I don't live my life that way. I have a lot of honor for our resources, and for trees in particular. We need trees. Our trees are our front line against climate change; they cool our planet, they clean our air, they clean water. The traditional forestry industry has been fairly extractive. And at the same time we're just throwing away beautiful material. So how do we maximize our resources that would otherwise be waste, that have a lot of value, to make things that are beautiful and long lasting, and also make things that create solutions in our communities, fill a need for beautiful, sustainable design? That was my goal.
Me: That’s great, I love that you found a way to make a living by solving a problem that was gnawing at you, and that the solution has created some gorgeous usable art. Tell me about the new product line, it so beautiful!
Megan: We're making pieces that can be passed on from generation to generation. Things that are enduring that people love and connect with. I feel like these pieces hold the story of beauty of the Hudson Valley. Our line is influenced by both mid-century and Asian design, and incorporates a lot of traditional joinery and attention to detail. We use our natural hand-rubbed finishes that are pretty easy to care for and that bring out the beauty of the wood that’s been chosen. The wood is sourced from trees that have fallen - trees that we find or that we source from partners who work similarly across the region.
Me: Take me through the process of buying a piece of furniture from you. Do people come to your space and choose their own wood? How long does it usually take from order to delivery?
Megan: Of course! We encourage people to come and pick out their own slab. We can send photographs for people that can’t make that journey, but it's really difficult to photograph wood, and it’s such a personal experience you know? Because it's a living thing. I feel like people can have a relationship with the pieces that they choose to live with. And we love taking people through and finding that perfect board for them for their project. We're really working with people to design something that they're going to love. Sometimes the process takes longer because we don’t have the perfect board in stock, and have to source it from one of our partners. It’s very much like when you're finding someone the right home - sometimes you have to search for a while. Generally the turn around time is 6-8 weeks once we have the right materials.
Me: Tell me about your move to Kingston, not just the business stuff, how do you like living here?
Megan: When I moved to Kingston I really felt like I met my people. I was in a community that’s creative. I love the energy here, and that it’s on an upswing, and that one can be a part of helping it become what it's going to be and participate. I find you can be involved in the policy and the politics and you can have a voice and participate in ways that are really daunting in larger cities. The landscape and the resources and the people are all, in my experience...incredible.
Me: You’re right, that was my experience in the area as well. It was easy to become a part of the community and so easy to get involved in things that I care about. I’m curious about your wood countertops – I’m in the midst of a kitchen remodel myself and I know that a lot of the homeowners we work with would be interested. Wood countertops are such a warm option.
Megan: We've actually been doing quite a number of wood countertops. We just had the opportunity to make a really beautiful curly maple countertop for the director of MoMA and his wife. I searched five counties to find the right pieces to make it. Counters range in cost from $120 to $150 per square foot and can be made with straight or live edges. We’ve also been making a lot of floating shelves.
Me: Is there any place people can see your work in person?
Megan: We’re actually going to be at the Field & Supply event that’s happening at the Hutton Brickyards in Kingston this weekend.
Me: Oh! That’s my favorite show of the year. Great! We’ll get to meet up then!
I’m super excited to see Megan’s furniture this weekend. As she said, it is hard to photograph wood and if here pieces look as good or better than the amazing shots on their website my half-decade long search for a coffee table will be over.
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