Looking at the space he had to work with in his San Diego office, Ryan Tharp knew he needed a long work table but also knew it couldn’t be as deep because of the constraints of the space.
“There are a lot of old homes and condos out there that have really small rooms,” says Tharp, who moved to Palm Springs in 2012. “I thought these narrower tables would be perfect for these conditions.”
Tharp, who has a degree in architecture, brought his appreciation for modern design into furniture making. His wd.stl.tbl [wood.steel.table] is a tribute to the merger of both disciplines.
“I’ve always admired architects who integrated furniture design into their practice. Eero Saarinen is a favorite,” Tharp says. “I used my architectural skills when tackling the table design. So sustainability, form, and function all play into it.”
The table, which is for sale at Just Modern in Palm Springs, also has a midcentury influence drawn from Danish furniture designers.
“I wanted to use their influences but bring it up to today’s standards,” Tharp says. “Think about it more from an environmental approach. In the past, furniture was made without concern for sustainability. My table design is a throwback to the past, but keeping the principles of here-and-now in mind.”
“One of the challenging parts of the job is finding the right reclaimed wood; it's like putting a puzzle together,” Tharp says. “If you look closely, you can see old nail holes. Each table is unique. It’s not mass produced. Each table has its own story.”
Tharp employs finger joints that create a stronger built table and brings in the Danish furniture influence as well. He recalls his admiration for the prominent finger joints displayed in ’The Chair' by Danish midcentury furniture designer Hans Wegner. Routed steel bar supports are another source of strength and keep the table visually lighter compared to bulky support systems that are typically added underneath table tops.
Tharp says he obtained his reclaimed wood from several different suppliers, but with some leanings to the Midwest. The repurposed wood is harvested from old barns and rural structures instead of being tossed into a landfill.
His fabricator is local and has 25 years of woodworking experience. Tharp likes to emphasize local whenever he can to give back to the community and create greater quality control over the product.
Tharp also grew up in an industrial town in the Midwest and was constantly exposed to how things were made. The most rewarding experience for him comes from working closely with fabricators to resolve complex construction details. He understands that building anything has its challenges. He welcomes these challenges and learns from them.
The table top is smooth, but the underside is purposely not smooth.
“It is intentionally left a little rougher underneath to expose the history of the wood,” says Tharp.
Tharp stamps his name to the underside of the table by burning it in – a technique he picked up from the midcentury furniture makers. This stamp serves as his personal seal of approval, and is a nod to the significance of historical research in his work.
“The table is not sealed with lacquer, it’s coated with a natural wax and orange oil finish that needs to be reapplied once a month to keep the wood looking its best,” Tharp says. “It’s a blend of beeswax and carnauba wax (commonly used for surfboards) for durability. The orange oil brings out the rich color and depth of grain."
"Vintage Danish teak furniture typically isn’t sealed with lacquer either," he adds. "It is periodically coated with a finishing product to help revive it. So like the vintage piece, you interact with the wood which makes it more of a tactile experience. The layered coatings allows the wood to age gracefully so that it may be passed down to future generations."