George Nakashima (USA, 1905-1990)

A master woodworker and M.I.T.-trained architect, George Nakashima was the leading light of the American Studio furniture movement. Along with Wharton Esherick, Sam Maloof, and Wendell Castle, Nakashima was an artisan who disdained industrial methods and materials in favor of a personal, craft-based approach to the design. What sets Nakashima apart is the poetic style of his work, his reverence for wood and the belief that his furniture could evince — as he put it in the title of his 1981 memoir — “The Soul of a Tree.”

     Born in Spokane, Washington, to Japanese immigrants, Nakashima traveled widely after college, working and studying in Paris, Japan and India, and at every stop he absorbed both modernist and traditional design influences. The turning point in Nakashima’s career development came in the United States in 1942, when he was placed in an internment camp for Asian-Americans in Idaho. There, Nakashima met a master woodcarver who tutored him in Japanese crafting techniques. A former employer won Nakashima’s release and brought him to bucolic New Hope, Pennsylvania, where Nakashima set up a studio and worked for the rest of his life.

     Nakashima’s singular aesthetic is best captured in his custom-made tables and benches — pieces that show off the grain, burls and whorls in a plank of wood. He left the “free edge,” or natural contour, of the slab un-planed, and reinforced fissures in the wood with “butterfly” joints. Almost all Nakashima seating pieces have smooth, milled edges. Nakashima also contracted with large-scale manufacturers to produce carefully supervised editions of his designs. Knoll has offered his “Straight Chair” — a modern take on the spindle-backed Windsor chair — since 1946; the now-defunct firm Widdicomb-Mueller issued the Shaker-inspired “Origins” collection in the 1950s.

     Nelson Rockefeller in 1973 gave Nakashima his single largest commission: a 200-piece suite for his suburban New York estate. Today, Nakashima furniture is collected by both the staid and the fashionable: his work sits in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Institution, as well as in the homes of Stephen Spielberg, Brad Pitt, Diane von Furstenberg and the late Steve Jobs.

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George Nakashima, Coffee Table/Bench

By George Nakashima
George Nakashima, Coffee Table/Bench
George Nakashima
Vintage 1970s American Benches
Walnut
George Nakashima, coffee table/bench in American black walnut. Signed: George Nakashima, 1977.
Conoid Bench by George Nakashima, American Walnut, circa 1960s

By George Nakashima
Conoid Bench by George Nakashima, American Walnut,...
George Nakashima
Mid-20th Century American Mid-Century Modern Benches
Wood
George Nakashima conoid bench. Solid one piece bench constructed of American black walnut with a backrest along the right half; hickory spindles support the top rail.
George Nakashima Walnut Coffee Table, 1980

By George Nakashima
George Nakashima Walnut Coffee Table, 1980
George Nakashima
Vintage 1980s Benches
A walnut coffee table/bench by George Nakashima, 1980. Sold with copy of original receipt.
Walnut Conoid Bench by George Nakashima

By George Nakashima
Walnut Conoid Bench by George Nakashima
George Nakashima
Mid-20th Century American Mid-Century Modern Benches
Walnut
A beautiful slab of walnut supporting walnut legs and backrest. Hickory spindles with walnut top rail. Large butterfly on slab.
Walnut Conoid Bench by George Nakashima

By George Nakashima
Walnut Conoid Bench by George Nakashima
George Nakashima
Mid-20th Century American Mid-Century Modern Benches
Walnut
Walnut slab seat with Hickory spindles supporting walnut top rail. Having rosewood butterfly.
Walnut Bench by George Nakashima

By George Nakashima
Walnut Bench by George Nakashima
George Nakashima
Mid-20th Century American Mid-Century Modern Benches
Walnut
A very sleek form having dive tail joinery and thru tenon construction.
George Nakashima Walnut Bench

By George Nakashima
George Nakashima Walnut Bench
George Nakashima
Mid-20th Century American Mid-Century Modern Benches
Walnut
Walnut slab with free edge front supporting Hickory spindles with walnut top rail. The bench is in excellent original condition.
George Nakashima Walnut Bench

By George Nakashima
George Nakashima Walnut Bench
George Nakashima
Vintage 1960s American Benches
Hickory, Walnut
An early example of this form by George Nakashima.    
George Nakashima Conoid Bench

By George Nakashima
George Nakashima Conoid Bench
George Nakashima
Vintage 1970s American Benches
Hickory, Walnut
A great example of George Nakashima's conoid bench. Free-form sculpted edges with great colorful grain.
Walnut Greenrock Stool or Bench with cushion by Ge...
George Nakashima
Late 20th Century American Modern Benches
Fabric, Foam, Rosewood, Walnut
A greenrock stool handcrafted by George Nakashima with cushion reupholstered in classic boucle fabric by Knoll. Square top with webbing over cross-form figured walnut base. Accent rosew...
Early Free Edge Walnut Bench by American Woodworke...
George Nakashima
Vintage 1960s American American Modern Benches
Hickory, Walnut
One of the iconic design by American woodworker George Nakashima, this bench was custom-made for a client in 1960 using walnut slab with spindle back and free front edge. The front edge...
Spindle Cushion Sofa by George Nakashima

By George Nakashima
Spindle Cushion Sofa by George Nakashima
George Nakashima
Vintage 1970s American Mid-Century Modern Benches
Walnut
A sofa/bench having a deep cushioned seat angled for comfort and full back cushions. This is a classic Nakashima form that came in several sizes.
Walnut  Bench by George Nakashima

By George Nakashima
Walnut Bench by George Nakashima
George Nakashima
20th Century American Benches
A very rare and wonderful tongue and groove bench having a thru tenon board running the length of the bench with exposed tenon. There has only been one other example of this form to hav...