A couple of years ago I learned that the George Nakashima complex, which includes his studio and home in New Hope, Pennsylvania was actually not that far from New York City. I travel to New York City all the time but the idea of renting a car and making the drive seemed to require a bit of planning. This required planning kept the item on my bucket list.
Let me share with you, just a few of the items on my design travel bucket list:
- Falling Water by Frank Lloyd Wright in Pittsburg
- Ville Savoye by Le Corbusier in France
- Villa E-1027 Cap Moderne in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France
- The Glass House by Mies Van Der Rohe in New Canaan, Connecticut
- Miller House and Garden by Eero Saarinen, Alexander Girard and Dan Kiley in Columbus, Indiana
- Georgia O'Keefe's home and studio in Abiquiu, New Mexico
I can't believe I had not made this trip sooner. The drive is beautiful, crossing bridges and arriving in the quaint town of New Hope was literally a breath of fresh air, far from the busy city we left behind. Immediately there's a sense of connection with nature and peacefulness upon arrival to the Nakashima studio. George Nakashima was a Japanese American Modernist furniture maker and his approach to design was heavily tied to nature.
The modernist Scandinavian design of the mid-century was very tied to nature in its use of woods and soft organic curves. However, Nakashima's work, as opposed to that of Finn Juhl or Alvar Aalto was much more in tune with the natural shape of the tree. The spirit of the tree, Nakashima believed, is to be enhanced by the woodworker. His mission was to tell the tree's story and give it a second life through furniture. Each piece of wood was carefully selected by Nakashima and its organic shape left predominantly untouched.
The Nakashima complex did not disappoint in this experience with nature and the conversation it withholds with the furniture on display. To my surprise, the studio space felt smaller than it appears in photographs. The light that enters is pristine. I noticed wooden dowels in the floorboards and the ceiling which immediately appears to be an asbestos popcorn ceiling, I learned later was replaced by a nontoxic material several decades ago. Both Kevin and Mira, George's children, were found on site during my visit. It was lovely to hear Kevin talk about Shikoku, the island in Japan where the Nakashima furniture is built, an island where both George Nakashima and Isamu Noguchi lived for some time during their lives (another location to add to the bucket list).
Many of George Nakashima's pieces are still in production, a few of his rug designs are available as well. Mira also designs furniture and produces custom pieces. Authentication and restoration are services provided at the Nakashima complex. Over the years many pieces in the style of George Nakashima have come up on the market, claiming to be originals. At the Nakashima studio, they call these pieces Nakashimoffs lol.
Photography was not permitted inside the studio but I've included some images here from the world wide web. A photograph will never provide the complete experiential knowledge of what the studio space or location feels like, a visit is highly recommended for any architecture and design lover. These intimate quarters are inspirational, they transport you to Japan.
Besides the studio, another structure on the complex is the residential quarters. The residential quarter is a small apartment with a kitchen tucked away behind sliding doors, a meditation room carpeted with tatami mats and a custom tiled bathroom which included the names of George Nakashima's children and grandchildren within the design. The apartment is completely furnished with Nakashima furniture.
To learn more about visiting the George Nakashima Studio visit the website here or read more about Nakashima and his work by clicking on these links used for this article: