Monday, May 4, 2009

Living with Wood: The Art of Compromise

In the previous post I showed several projects that Aidan and I had built, including a shelf unit built of melamine with oak edging, hanging above a work table with an oak top and melamine cabinets. So just who am I to praise "natural" and "authentic" and "time-tested" craftsmanship? Am I a hypocrite?

I love wood. I hate to waste good wood. And it's in an office, not a crafts museum. It would pain me to see good oak wasted on shelving that, one day later, looked like this:

Offices mutate to meet rapidly changing business conditions and to accommodate rapidly changing technology. The shelf and work table may, a year from now, need to be moved or modified. Those cabinets under the work table are 3 separate units, each on casters, which can be wheeled to new locations. That was always the plan. The work table surface is the size of a single bed. At times we use the office as a guest room. For guests, we wheel the base cabinets out of the way, lower the table surface onto some short legs, lay a mattress on it, and - it's a bed.

The oak trim on the shelves brings them into the theme of the office, which has oak floors and a gigantic oak desk on the opposite side of the room. Too much oak would be overkill. Sometimes, you appreciate a little oak trim more than you would an entire wall of oak. It's a matter of accents, of proportions. And, I suppose, it's a matter of compromise.
In my living room, I built a shelf unit entirely out of oak. It's meant to be permanent, and the oak is a statement of permanence - and of values.

When I started out as a carpenter, I hated drywall. I hated Formica, plastic, Masonite, linoleum, fiberglass, particle board. I guess I've mellowed. That oak bookshelf in my living room would look worse, not better, if the wall behind it were paneled in wood. The painted gypsum wall is gentler on the environment and serves to make the oak stand out.
My younger self would say I've "sold out." My older self says I've grown up. My practical self says, "If I sold out, where's the money?"

Meanwhile, I'm just doing what I think is right. Sell-out? Practical man? Hypocrite? I'll let you decide.

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