"Yvette’s Bed" | Ribbon Mahogany and Claro Walnut | 80 x 92 x 72 inches

Ones to Watch: David Coffin

Inspired by nature, furniture designer David Coffin believes the wood is an integral element of any project. “At bottom it seems to me to be all about beauty, seeing beauty and creating beauty,” he says. “Whether it’s a painting, sculpture or a piece of furniture, that’s the goal.”

Coffin’s clients usually approach him with an idea of what they’d like. “It starts with sketches and input from the client,” he says. “The whole thing boils down to the client renting the visualization of the artist. That’s my core strength, visualizing what they want even if they don’t know quite what they want. I can visualize it for them.”

Once he has their input he begins sketching, generating ideas and building a strong collaboration. “For me, it’s about the wood, so that’s what I try to emphasize,” he says. “What keeps me going, after all these years of furniture design and building, is the amazing design within the wood. Nature is full of these remarkable anomalies. The result is stunningly beautiful material. As artists and craftsmen, we are fortunate enough to have access to that.”

Coffin acquires wood from all over the country as well as overseas. With the availability of online marketplaces, he can find anything from anywhere in the world. But he oftentimes returns to the woods of his youth. “I grew up in New England, so occasionally when I go back there I go on wood adventures, hunting for wood,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll buy trees from a small farm and have it cut exactly how I want.”

Some of his favorite pieces are made from “figured” wood. Usually the grain in the wood is straight, but sometimes the grain gets twisted into patterns and that’s referred to as “figured.” “When you cut through the figured pieces, it’s just magical,” he says. “To me it’s the highest expression of furniture and has been for hundreds of years.”

Coffin’s grandfather was an inventor, his father an inventor and a machinist. “He could build anything,” he says. “My brother is the same way. So growing up, there were always things being created from nothing. I have that attitude, if I can build it I will. I started in high school woodshop, then home building carpentry and then furniture.”

Coffin’s work is expertly refined artistry. Every detail is attended to, every plane thoughtfully designed with clean lines and deceptively simple beauty. “I just finished a walnut wardrobe; it has fairly straight lines, so it’s really about the figured walnut,” he says. “It’s going to a woman who is an art collector and has an appreciation for beautiful things.”

When it comes to the initial sketches, Coffin allows his muse to take over. “I’m going to design something that appeals to me and hope that the clients like it,” he says. “I tend to go for a more contemporary West Coast look, with a bit of an Asian influence.”

But it always comes back to the natural grains and tones of the timber itself. “If the wood didn’t just blow me away I would’ve quit a long time ago,” he says. “When I build something I’m just trying to do the wood justice and the design should showcase that.”

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