Say, have you ever seen a redwood? You know, those enormous trees they grow out west. What if I told you could have one for your own living room, at least part of it that is? Susan Watson found a creative custom furniture designer who makes those redwood dreams a reality. These may not be the sounds you immediately associate with Music City. But for Kelly Maxwell, the sound coming from his workshop at Littlebranch Farm is definitely music to his ears.
Custom furniture designer
There’s not a greater joy to me than taking a raw wood slab sanding it peeling back the layers to find the treasure inside. We use live edge wood that is harvested from dead trees. To create unique, one-of-a-kind wood furniture pieces. Our wood most commonly comes from the Pacific Northwest. The trees get big out there. Such as the big leaf maple burls that we have in the showroom. Also, Claro Walnut burls, the buckeye burl wood, even the redwood burls. Because the redwoods pre-1960 were harvested pretty heavily, many stumps, roots, and logs were left on the forest floor and not used.
Natural wood Furniture in Music City
Wood that was once left behind as trash is now sought after and prized by custom furniture designer Kelly Maxwell. Kelly and his crew cut and then patiently sand, and finally applying their unique, natural hand rubbed finish to create custom live edge furniture that blends art and function. Kelly’s furniture is formidable but elegant at the same time. A definite conversation piece and almost impossible to resist. It’s rustic, but the finish is smooth as silk. That’s 100% technique because it’s all in the sanding and technique. As a Custom furniture maker, I like organic. I like natural beauty. I don’t like to stain the wood but use a simple hand-rubbed wood finish. Because I like to see the wood truly as it is.
Artistic but functional live edge furniture
Although they look rather unsightly from the outside, burls are a tree’s natural response to stress from an injury or viral or fungal infection. As the burl’s age, their colors and chaotic patterns create a distorted beauty. One that Kelly appreciates and highlights at Littlebranch Farm.
This is a big leaf maple burl out of Northern California, Oregon area. This is a burl that grew on the outside of the tree. You know burls can grow up on the tree or as a nodule or down in the ground. This one was actually growing around the tree. The tree was about 32 to 36 inches in diameter. You can see here the center of three. This burl just grew all the way around it. It is seven foot long. I believe it was probably a seven-foot round, but to mill it they actually cut it down on the sides to get it inside their mill. This burl is actually 62 inches wide by seven foot long. It’s amazing and beautiful burl wood!
Custom burl wood furniture
You might think that something so beautiful should be admired from afar, not subjected to something as messy as daily life, but that is precisely what Kelly designs for. It’s meant to be functional furniture. It is usable. It’s finished to be durable, to hold up. If you buy a dining room table, it’s meant to be used as a dining room table, not just to look at as a pretty art piece over here. Yes, it is art in the home, but there’s functional art. That’s what we create here. Wood is, in my opinion, the one component that warms a room. I don’t care if you’ve got a colonial style home or an ultra-modern home, contemporary, whatever that is, a natural piece of wood will warm that space and will fit. Because it’s part of nature. Yes, it’s part of nature. You’re just bringing a piece of nature into the house, into your home, into your life, where you can enjoy it every day.
Custom functional home decor
This live edge wood slab is going to be a hanging rustic vanity. We’ll actually flip it over, carve a sink into it, put the faucet down in it. Anthony, at Redtail Forge works, will make me up a set of chain mounting brackets. It’ll be able to hang from the wall and just be suspended. Kind of looks medieval.
The spacious showroom is filled with beautiful live edge tables, headboards, vanities, and mantels; however, for most clients, this is simply a point of inspiration. Most head on back to the workshop where they can browse through the hundreds of slabs that are waiting to be turned into someone’s special heirloom piece.
Furniture maker teaches how to sand wood!
Sometimes they want to come in and literally just pick up a sander and feel like they have contributed a portion to it. I take the time to educate them on the appropriate way to sand. Kelly understands the desire to be part of the process, to be part of revealing some hidden beauty in nature and maybe a hidden talent in one’s self. It was less than 20 years ago that he was working happily as a paramedic when his stepdaughter asked him to build some benches for her rustic wedding. With encouragement from friends and family, he took his work to a craft fair and sold it all. From that humble beginning, Kelly has built a name for himself with clients throughout the south and across the globe. He’s grateful that he gets to do what he loves and humbled that what he’s creating today will be bringing joy for many years to come. It brings me a lot of joy knowing that any of my pieces could be passed on from one generation to the next, and I think it’s great.