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The beauty and character of our handcrafted furniture begins with our extraordinary materials. The Pacific Northwest, with its long growing season and plentiful rain, is one of the world’s most ideal climates for hardwood trees. Our region’s urban trees often fare better than trees in the forest, benefiting from summer irrigation and less competition. City trees also show the evidence of human interaction. Pruning scars, nails, fencing, and even bullets leave their unique character in the rapidly growing wood. We mill our trees into slabs, as opposed to conventional commercial lumber, revealing dramatic whorls and arches in the wood grain, as distinctive as fingerprints. 

 

Preventing waste is one of Urban Hardwoods’ founding principles. In the past, when these beautiful urban trees would fall in windstorms or were infected with Dutch Elm disease, too often they’d end up as firewood or be fed to the wood chipper. Today we work closely with local arborists to ensure these felled or hazardous trees are carefully salvaged to maximize usable wood. For us, craftsmanship and artistry start at sourcing, and are infused into every step of a salvaged tree’s journey from milling all the way to stunningly realized tables, desks, benches, and sculptural wall pieces.   

 

Unlike most contemporary furniture makers, we handle every aspect of our process, from milling and curing to design, fabrication, and finishing. This gives us a unique flexibility and a level of quality control that is rare in our industry. Doing our own milling allows us to preserve the tree’s natural beauty and cut our logs with an eye for slab shape and furniture design potential. We air-dry every slab for up to three years, depending on the species.

Part of honoring our trees is telling their stories. Every tree we mill is carefully labeled by species and neighborhood of origin, giving customers and interior designers the option of building multiple pieces of custom furniture from a single tree or a specific location. With every piece we build you can know where the tree grew and be assured the material was harvested sustainably. 

We call upon our woodworkers to be more than just craftsmen. We ask them to consider a slab’s color, shape, edge, and character of grain. Our low-impact approach to design and craft is a true collaboration with nature. We build to the inherent grandeur of our material. This, coupled with our deep skill and experience in slab woodworking, lead to finished pieces of enduring quality and beauty. 

 

We invite you to experience our work for yourself here on our site or at one of our showrooms.



Keaton Freeman, lead woodworker here at Urban Hardwoods, is our resident renaissance man. He’s our go-to guy for technically difficult pieces, new experiments, and elaborate custom projects. Keaton is a master furniture maker with a fantastic range of skills. We sat down with Keaton at the Urban Hardwoods workshop and asked him about his influences, passion projects, and some of his favorite pieces he’s made at Urban Hardwoods—including a few he envisioned in dreams! 


Q: So Keaton, how did you get your start at Urban Hardwoods?

KF: I had lived in Seattle for a year. I’d moved from the East Coast and I knew I wanted to do either jewelry or furniture. That was my goal. My brother had told me about Urban Hardwoods. I walked into the Seattle showroom (the showroom and the workshop were in the same place back then) and I offered to work for free just so I could get back into a woodworking shop. They hired me instead. I started the next day. That was six and a half years ago.

 

Q: What got you into handcrafted furniture and jewelry?

KF: Growing up I was always making things. I have a very creative family. My mom is a potter. My dad is an engineer. Every home we’ve lived in we’ve either built or remodeled. My grandmother is a seamstress in the costume department at Penn State. My grandfather was a woodcarver and he worked as a set builder in the theater. My other grandmother was a painting professor at Penn State. So I’ve always been immersed in creativity in some way. But it wasn’t till school that I discovered jewelry and furniture making. I went to Virginia Commonwealth University. Furniture making spoke to me right away. In my second year of college I took a metals class with Susie Ganch, which pointed me towards jewelry making. She became a huge influence on me.

Q: What other artists, woodworkers, and designers have influenced you over the years?

KF: Let’s see. When it comes to jewelry, I’m inspired by the work of Andy Cooperman and Sarah Hood. The Argentine chef Francis Mallmann is a big influence of mine—both for his style of cooking and his lifestyle. I seek to live like he lives. As far as contemporary furniture, I really admire Matthias Pliessnig. I love his work. His form. Some of his pieces take a year to make. I love that people can do that. I have a lot of respect for that level of patience and precision.

 

Q: Do you have some favorite pieces that you’ve built over your years at Urban Hardwoods?

KF: One of my favorite things about working for Urban Hardwoods is the challenge of the custom work we do. It’s a new challenge each time. I like using my brain. When things aren’t laid out for me and it’s not very straightforward I get to find creative solutions to make a piece work.

I’d say my favorite pieces in general have been some of the multifold pieces, especially some of the one-off pieces I’ve done using an unusual piece of salvaged wood. I like the furniture design and craftsmanship challenge of making the most beautiful piece I can with a challenging piece of wood. 

 

Q: Do you have a favorite wood species to work with?

KF: Walnut. I love walnut. Until I started working here it used to be maple, but the walnut we get in the Pacific Northwest is very different than the Eastern walnut. The colors are just beautiful—the reds and purples and grays you get from it. Walnut is also a little forgiving. I like the way the grain behaves. I love the material I get to work with at Urban Hardwoods. When I was in school and other places I’ve worked it was all about the assembly process. Here it’s about designing around a piece of wood and working with what a lot of people would consider “flaws.” We don’t see flaws, we see character. It’s the character and flaws that make a piece special. It’s so much more interesting and satisfying than working with commercial boards.

 

Q: What are a few of your favorite custom projects you’ve ever worked on?

KF: We recently built a custom security desk for a client of the architecture firm Skidmore Owings & Merrill. It was fun because it involved a very elaborate piecing together of some gorgeous wood. The design called for many pieces of wood and they wanted the grain to continue from piece to piece even though the wood wraps all around the desk. To get this done successfully I had to cut 20+ pieces and lay them all out together and match the grains. It took a lot of time experimenting with combinations. In the end I got the grain to line up really well.

Another cool custom piece was our recent collaboration with Stearns & Foster. We built them a pair of custom bedside tables for their “Curated Craftsmen Giveaway.” I love building casegoods and credenzas. I don’t know where that came from. I think it’s because my grandmother had a credenza and I really liked it. But I also collect records, so it might come from that. I built a series of credenzas specially scaled to fit LPs, with a space designed for the record player and receiver too. So the Stearns & Foster piece was kind of close to that but with drawers instead of shelves for records. Also, the Stearns & Foster piece uses multiple species of wood, which is really tricky to successfully pull off. I think it came out great.

Q: Do you only do custom projects these days, or can we see pieces you’ve built in the showrooms?

KF: Yeah, I do pieces that are in the showrooms. I do pieces like unusual compositions with cedar blocks and multifold tables. One of my favorite things about these kinds of pieces is the process of discovery. With custom pieces, the design is usually set ahead of time. I know what it’s going to look like before I start and I have my approach all planned out. But with these pieces for the showroom, I get to start with a piece of wood and make something beautiful out of it. And I get more feedback. I get to see what the audience thinks of the design. When I’m not working on a piece of custom furniture, I like to grab an interesting piece of wood and get as creative as I can with it. These pieces often end up in the showrooms.

 

Q: Have you ever had a challenging project keep you up at night?

KF: No, not really. I’ve been kept up at night by projects I’m excited about. For instance, we have a big salvaged stump in the workshop right now. Recently we did a custom project involving faceted blocks and that project stuck in my mind. So I couldn’t sleep the other night because I was thinking, “We can translate that approach into this bigger piece.” I got fired up about it. I’ve also had dreams about pieces. I’ve built pieces that I first saw in dreams.

 

Q: So, what’s inspiring you this week?

KF: Another big influence of mine is Hofmann Architecture. They take old Airstreams and renovate the interiors with modern designs. Last June I bought a 1964 Avion trailer. It looks identical to an Airstream. I gutted the trailer down to the exterior shell and the frame. Once I gutted it, I realized how much work needed to be done. I worked on it through the summer and then the fall rains came and I didn’t realize how leaky this thing was going to be. It was a battle to get it waterproofed in the rain and dark. So now it’s the fun part. I just finished rebuilding the windows. They’re made out of wood of course. I’m redesigning and rebuilding the entire interior. I love the project. It’s taken me in a lot of directions I never thought I’d go. It’s so challenging. I had no idea I’d be learning about trailer sealants and exhaust fans and stuff. It’s kind of like refurbishing a boat. Tonight I’ll be building some frames for framing out the kitchen. I get to work on my own projects after hours here in the workshop. It’s a great perk of working here.

 

Q: What else do you make?

KF: Well, pizza. I used to host a pizza night. I’d make the dough and people would bring toppings. We did it every Thursday for three years. I’ve probably made the dough for a 1000 pizzas. I’ve made beer. I’ve made fruit wines and brandy. Kiwi, by the way, makes a real good dry chardonnay. I have more fun cooking than making pizza these days. I’ve been cooking Moroccan lately. I like French cuisines a lot, but not really the pastries as much. I like to cook Mediterranean, and Cuban too.

 

Q: Any upcoming projects you are excited about?

KF: I like the direction Urban Hardwoods is going with our custom projects. I’m excited to see where it takes us in the workshop. I like that we are always trying new things. The custom projects lead to innovations and new techniques. I can feel it expanding my knowledge and skills. I like that. 

 



For every piece of hardwood furniture we build, there’s a story. And each one of those stories starts with a tree. This particular tree story begins in 2012 with a late summer stroll through Seattle’s Roosevelt neighborhood, just east of Green Lake. Our Operations Manager, Dave Hunzicker, who lives nearby, noticed a tree showing the telltale signs of advanced Dutch Elm Disease. 

 

Dutch Elm Disease, a fungus spread mainly by bark beetles, affects a tree’s flow of water and nutrients and has been a problem in Seattle since 2001. Not wanting to see this once-grand old tree be wasted in the wood chipper, Dave asked the homeowner if she had plans to remove the tree. He told her about Urban Hardwoods and our efforts to salvage fallen and hazardous urban trees and give them a second life as beautiful, enduring furniture.

As it turned out, Dave was just in time. The homeowner had already arranged with Seattle Tree Preservation to have the tree removed. Dave was able to work with the arborists to make sure the tree was cut in a way that would allow as much usable wood as possible to be salvaged. The resulting logs arrived at our mill in December 2012, and were milled in early 2013.

 

Then started the drying process. As with every tree salvage, each milled slab is labeled. The slabs from the tree in our story each carried a tag that read “English Elm, Roosevelt, 12/2012.” The slabs were carefully stacked in our warehouse to air dry. To be done right the process takes time—this English elm took over two years to dry. After a trip to our kiln to further reduce the moisture content, the wood finally arrived at our workshop in the fall of 2015.

John and Amy Gunnar, owners of Seattle’s Portage Bay Café, were in the process of building their fourth location on NE 65th St. Portage Bay offers diners a delicious menu of local, organic, and sustainable foods. Like Portage Bay’s  three other locations, John and Amy wanted to fill the café with décor and furniture sourced in the Seattle area. John came into our Seattle showroom and asked if we could build them a table from wood salvaged near the new café location. As luck would have it, the slabs from our Roosevelt English Elm (which had stood just blocks away from the new Portage Bay) were just coming out of the kiln. As with many of our commercial customers, John and Amy were able to select from the dry material the specific piece of wood that worked best for them, along with the perfect finish and table base. The wood slab table is now a one-of-a-kind centerpiece of the new café.

“We wanted this table because the tree was local and Urban Hardwoods is local and they have grown in Seattle right along with us,” said Gunnar. “Urban Hardwoods’ mission is much the same as ours—local and sustainable. We are proud to have their products in our cafes.”  

Wood salvaged from the Roosevelt English Elm has also been used for other pieces, including four elm gathering tables built for PEMCO Insurance, and a gorgeous dining table with a black steel sled base that’s currently available in our Seattle showroom. This elm could have very easily gone to waste. Instead, we’re honoring this tree by using it to build salvaged wood furniture that’s as beautiful as it is enduringly functional—serving café diners, meetings, and family gatherings for decades to come.

 

To learn more about Urban Hardwoods’ wide range of custom options and our huge supply of locally salvaged material, feel free to contact us at or stop by one of our showrooms.



Ebonizing. What is it? What causes its distinctly beautiful effects? Our Urban Hardwoods showrooms have seen a recent wave of interest in the ebonizing process, and ebonized pieces are quickly becoming some of our most popular. So we decided it was time to answer some frequently asked questions, celebrate this centuries-old technique, and take you behind the scenes to our workshop to see how it’s done.

Ebonizing is a wood tinting process that has changed little since its development in Europe in the 16th and 17th century as an alternative to using naturally black ebony, which was becoming increasingly rare and expensive. Thanks to the Aesthetic Movement, ebonized wood gained wide popularity in late 19th century France and England, in part because of the contemporary fascination with Japanese lacquerware. Ebonized furniture from this period was typically obsidian black (or very near to it) with a glossy finish. Dark black ebonizing continues to be the norm today.

 

As you can see from our time-lapse video above, the process is decidedly low-tech. Essentially, ebonizing is a simple chemical reaction. All wood species have tannins. When a solution of vinegar and iron is introduced to the wood, the tannins in the wood darken. The color deepens over the drying time. The more tannins, the darker the results. (This same reaction causes the gray or black streaks in certain wood species when a nail has been driven into the tree.)

Historically, ebonizing has been done using high-tannin species such as oak and cherry to achieve a very dark hue—as close as possible to the color of ebony. We have recently been going against the traditional grain, and ebonizing our wood slab furniture built from species with lower tannin levels, such the maple dining table shown in the video above. Recent experiments in ebonizing low-tannin hardwood tables have delivered colors ranging from bronze to cocoa to gray. 

One of the things we love most about the ebonizing process is that we can never be certain of the results. This unpredictability keeps the process interesting, most of the time for the better. Two salvaged wood tables built from the same species can react very differently. It makes every piece we ebonize a new discovery, with nature controlling the outcome. But by far the biggest reason we love the ebonizing process is that it’s non-toxic, and crucially, it doesn’t contain particles of pigment that obscure or muddy the grain, character, and figure of the wood.  

If you want to learn more about ebonizing, email us or drop us a line, or better yet, stop by one of our showrooms and experience our extraordinary ebonized pieces first hand.



With the holiday season here, we’ve been having a lot of discussions around our showrooms and in the workshop about our favorite places to find locally made and artfully selected gifts. With so many craftspeople and small businesses making and selling so many amazing things in our three hometowns, we decided to sit down at a live edge desk and compile a short list of our favorite artisans and independent shops. From blacksmiths in Seattle to booksellers in Santa Monica, check out our 6 favorite places to find locally crafted and curated gifts. 

 

1. Steel Toe Studio 

Based in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood, designer Erica Gordon’s Steel Toe Studio is a favorite of ours. Combining traditional blacksmithing techniques with “renegade” materials and ideas, Steel Toe focuses on making modern, functional accessories made primarily from recycled and repurposed steel. The studio crafts buckles, belts, jewelry, cuffs, and bottle openers—all forged, welded and finished by hand.

Where to Buy:

Steeltoestudios.com 

Select Retailers

2. Heath Ceramics

Based in the Bay Area, Heath Ceramics “designs, makes, and sells thoughtful products that embody creativity and craftsmanship, and enhance the way people eat, live, and connect.” We absolutely love their streamlined cups, plates, bowls, tiles, and other earthenware that merges clean design with a distinctly Californian aesthetic (and looks fantastic on hardwood tables). Visit their “creative campus” in San Francisco’s Northeast Mission neighborhood.

Where to Buy:

Heathceramics.com 

San Francisco 

Sausalito 

Los Angeles

3. John Cobb 

Woodturner and artist John Cobb, a Seattle native now based outside of San Francisco in Marin County, creates handcrafted bowls, vessels, and art pieces from exceptional reclaimed wood found in Northern California. John finds his source materials by climbing through the woodpiles of Bay Area arborists hunting for stumps and logs that have hidden potential waiting just beneath the bark. John’s stunning pieces celebrate the natural beauty of wood at its absolute finest, evoking everything from the luminous striations of marble to the cloud formations of Jupiter. John’s remarkable work can be found in all three Urban Hardwoods showrooms.   

Where to Buy:

Any of our three Urban Hardwoods showrooms.

4. NUBE

We met NUBE founder Ruth True at a Seattle Made event we hosted at our Seattle showroom in October and were inspired by her story. The company’s Capitol Hill storefront features sustainable home wares, gifts, clothing, kids goods, handmade bags, and jewelry, all completely sourced, milled, and made in the U.S. The company aims to make “going green a little easier” by providing goods that support local artisans while eliminating new materials and overseas manufacturing. NUBE champions an innovative approach to repurposing, such as scarves made from recycled cashmere textiles and hand-made angora beanies made with yarn spun from the artist’s own angora bunnies.

Where to Buy:

Nubegreen.com

NUBE Capitol Hill Flagship Store

5. Our Local Architecture & Design Book Stores

Apparently we are huge fans of independent architecture and design bookstores. Three of them made our list, and lucky for us, each of Urban Hardwood’s hometowns has one. Peter Miller Books in Seattle, William Stout Architectural & Art Books in San Francisco, and Hennessey + Ingalls in Santa Monica all feature a wonderfully curated selection of architecture, design and art books. Many of these books are art objects in and of themselves—and would look great atop your new cedar coffee table!

Where to Buy:

Peter Miller Books, Seattle 

William Stout Architectural & Art Books, San Francisco 

Hennessey + Ingalls, Santa Monica

6. Urban Hardwoods

We couldn’t compile a list like this with out adding some salvaged wood furniture. When we asked for suggestions from the showrooms and workshop there were quite a few votes for beautiful yet functional smaller pieces, such as a distinctive console table or live edge bench. Some other pieces that made our list: a Blackened Steel End Table with a solid wood slab shelf (available in several wood species), a Madrone Console Table with one straight edge and a black steel frame base, and finally, an Ebonized Maple Cocktail Table with black steel wire hoop legs.

 

Stop into one of our showrooms or explore our furniture offerings here on our site and find the perfect one-of-a-kind piece for someone on your holiday list.

Where to Buy:

Any of our three Urban Hardwoods showrooms.

UrbanHardwoods.com 



“These days people want to know where things come from—they want to know the backstory,” said Filson President Gray Madden as he sat in front of two stunning hardwood tables. “It’s a trend that’s not going to wear out,” he added. Madden was one of four panelists at a recent Made in Seattle Week event we hosted in our Seattle showroom. With the room full of beautiful locally built wood slab furniture, the setting for the discussion couldn’t have been more ideal. 

This growing demand for transparency in sourcing, authenticity, and local connection is being met by an ever-widening community of local Seattle builders, makers, artisans, and craftspeople. And for companies like Filson and us at Urban Hardwoods, it hasn’t been much of a challenge to adjust to this new landscape—we were there all along. 

“We started by seeing the potential in waste,” said our General Manager Bryan Reed. “It originally started with seeing logs floating down the river or in the sound and us thinking, ‘we should do something with those.’ That turned out to be much too difficult, and we started making connections with tree service companies in the area because they’re cutting down trees that have to be removed. We didn’t want to see these beautiful trees turned into woodchips.”

Filson, like us, is a member of Seattle Made, an initiative led by the Seattle Good Business Network. Along with organizing events such as Made in Seattle Week, the initiative aims to grow and support Seattle’s urban manufacturing and producer economy. The initiative, which counts among its ranks over 200 local manufacturers and allied organizations, is modeled after the successful efforts of SF Made in San Francisco and other emerging urban manufacturing alliances around the country.

Filson, who has manufactured outdoor gear and apparel in Seattle for over 100 years, shares many of the same values and characteristics with us at Urban Hardwoods. Whether it’s making highly durable, “unfailing” jackets or hand-crafting one-of-a-kind hardwood tables, our companies care about the ethics of our sourcing, prize craftsmanship, and recognize that when it comes to quality, if you want something made to the highest possible standards you had better make it yourself.

We agree with Gray’s assessment. Backstory does matter. We all should care about the origins of the things we buy. That’s why we make sure our salvaged wood furniture is ethically and sustainably sourced. That’s why our craftsmen take the time to instill every one of our pieces with a quality and detail that’s impossible to mass-produce. We don’t go to these great lengths because it’s fashionable; we do it because it’s our longtime passion. 

As our Operations Manager Dave Hunzicker puts it, “I love the variety of my job. I love the hands-on, the creativity. And I love that we’re involved in the whole process, from trees to finished furniture. Every week I have a new favorite piece.”



Join Urban Hardwoods at the 7th annual Modern Design Block Party. We’ll be hosting, along with our talented neighbors in the Port 106 Block—fast becoming a hub for Seattle’s growing design community. There will be free food and beverages, games and prizes, and rare, behind-the-scenes tours of some of Seattle’s most innovative companies. Come see where our beautiful furniture comes to life, meet some of our craftsmen, and have a drink while you’re at it!

Event details:
2015 Modern Design Block Party
Friday July 17th
3-8 PM
Port 106 Block
4750 Ohio Ave S 
Seattle, Washington 98134

Participating businesses include:
Urban Hardwoods
Two Beers Brewery
Seattle Cider Company
Crucible Wines
Resolute Lighting
Lantern Press
3 Form
Rosichelli Design
Aria Style
Choice Linens
Resource 3 NW
Grand Image
Silver Cup Coffee
Tek Machining
Tom Bihn
Seattle Granite
Kelly Paper


Urban Hardwoods believes in the value of a greater cause, especially when it comes to saving our environment.

With Seattle undergoing rapid expansion, we understand that the need to maintain our natural landscapes is more relevant than ever. To help promote to the importance of preserving our natural urban spaces, we have partnered with The Trust for Public Land, a national organization that creates parks and protects land for people. 

We share the vision that modern conservation is improving our urban lifestyle through salvaging and protecting our resources. Much like Urban Hardwoods transforms dying trees into beautiful furniture, since 1972, The Trust for Public Land has helped complete more than 5,200 parks and conservation projects nationwide that incorporate community need and character into beautiful spaces. Since opening an office in Seattle in 1975, The Trust for Public Land has become a conservation leader in the Puget Sound region, securing land and raising funds for local parks such as the Kukutali Nature Preserve and SAM's Olympic Sculpture Park.

To learn more about The Trust for Public Land, visit tpl.org or stop by Urban Hardwoods' Seattle showroom to pick up an issue of their publication, Land + People.



Come see the new wide-open gallery space at our open house and show Custom Concepts from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday October 23. Several wood artists will be on hand to celebrate the beauty and integrity of wood. Our team will also be there to answer any questions and get to know you better.

We will treat you to complimentary hors d’oeuvres and drinks as you explore the works of Ed Pretty, John Cobb and Warren Pope. They explore grain, color, density and the natural asymmetry of the wood. Our products are built with this same inspiration in mind.

Ed Pretty’s work is from the turningwood craft, where pieces are carved using rotational tools. He creates vases and bowls and many other brilliantly colored pieces from hardwoods. You can see examples at his online gallery.

In contrast to the colors and smooth edges of Pretty’s work, John Cobb likes to explore the rough and natural live edges that drive his pieces. His turningwood is all from salvaged pieces. He is a Bay Area artist who prides himself on using wood pieces frequently destined for the junk heap. See some examples at his gallery online. Cobb allows the frayed edges to become part of the final work.

Seattle artist Warren Pope brings much more radical and sculptural freedom to his work with wood, giving it bright paint and stretching canvas across it to make objects that stray far from typical vessels or vases. Pope’s work, some of it recently exhibited at Gallery Mack in Pike Place Market, explodes from the wall and climbs into fanciful forms that remind one of flowers or flights of butterflies.

The cool gray palette of our newly remodeled Seattle showroom with its wide open spaces allows you to see the warmth of all the wood creations in a better light.

Please RSVP to laurie@urbanhardwoods.com . And visit the Facebook event page here.