Live edge wood can create a mood in a home that leaves an unforgettable impression. It does more than liven up a room, it makes the room feel alive. Furniture, wall hangings or shelving created from live edge slabs demonstrate both design creativity and a respectful admiration for the untouched beauty of nature. Any room in a home or business can provide an opportunity to incorporate a handsomely functional or singularly decorative connection to the outside world through the addition of a live edge wood piece.
How to Incorporate Live Edge Slabs
Originally referred to as a rustic approach to furniture-making and interior design, the term “live edge” became associated with the perfected craftsmanship and organic expressiveness of George Nakashima, the Japanese-American architect and woodworker whose body of work became representative of the best of Twentieth-Century American Art furniture. Nakashima’s home and workshop in New Hope, PA, was designated a National Historic Landmark and is included in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Nakashima’s woodworking legacy lives on in the new and often unique ways that homeowners, businesses and both do-it-yourself and master woodworkers are making use of live edge hardwood slabs. There are a great many ways that slabs of hickory, walnut, maple and other species can be creatively incorporated into a wide variety of spaces and settings in a home or office.
Dining Room Tabletops
Live edge hardwood lends its own unique character to any room and also compliments a wide range of interior styles. A live edge dining room table becomes an eye-catching centerpiece in any family dining area and also provides a long-lasting and sturdy functionality.
After choosing a live edge slab tabletop, you can either affix the legs yourself in your own workshop or have a professional woodworker do it for you if you don’t possess the required DIY skills. Hardwoods are heavy, so you should take that into consideration when choosing your table’s foundation. Current stylings are favoring the modern and sleek look afforded by solid metal legs, but almost any aesthetic approach can be matched with a live edge slab as long as the foundation can adequately support the weight of the tabletop.
Countertops and Cutting Boards
Because of their smaller size and surface area, countertops and cutting boards made from live edge hardwoods weigh less than similarly-sourced full-sized tabletops and can be less demanding of their support foundation. They are also typically installed or used with pre-existing kitchen structures which are already capable of providing adequate support.
An artistic juxtaposition of style can be drawn from the contrast between the natural organic look of a live edge slab countertop and the sleek and modernistic appliances in a high-tech kitchen. It’s rather appropriate that the spot where healthy and appetizing foods are chopped, sliced and combined should reflect an aesthetic departure from the other appointments in a technically sophisticated cooking area.
Wood surface counter tops and cutting boards provide a better surface for preparing food. They help maintain a bacteria-free area for preparing and mixing food ingredients, especially when working with fresh vegetables, meats, and dairy items. Hardwoods, unlike plastic surfaces, are less susceptible to a build-up of scratches and grooves that can provide a place for bacteria to hide and grow. You are also less likely to experience a knife slip and cut yourself when chopping, cutting and slicing on a wood surface. Hardwood counter tops and cutting boards are a wise choice for any kitchen, and those made from live edge wood slabs are also a stand-out addition.
Desks and Computer Tables
It’s hard to come up with a greater contrast than that of a live edge hardwood surface providing a home for a modern PC and an accompanying army of state-of-the-art telecommunication devices. In terms of enhancing productivity and creativity, however, this can help to combat mental fatigue and maintain a sense of focus when you’ve been staring at a monitor for too long. In the same way that plants can enhance creativity, the impactful presence of a natural wood grain surface at your home’s productivity area can provide a refreshing jolt of mindfulness when you need it most. This could be the ticket to finishing up work on that wearisome spreadsheet update or getting that lengthy report done in time.
Although you can have a custom-built desk or computer table made from the live edge slab of your choice, you may also be able to perform a quick and easy upgrade to an existing piece of furniture. With the right match-up of a newly-acquired wood slab and the surface area of an existing desk or table, you may be fortunate enough to have little more than a plug-and-play DIY project at hand.
Shelving made from live edge wood accomplishes much more than fulfilling a functional need. In addition to contributing to household organization, a characteristic warmth is added to the room. Attaching the shelving to a wall securely can, however, provide a rather daunting challenge. Once you have selected and acquired the wood pieces that speak to your expressive needs, it may be a good idea to consult with or contract someone who is experienced in matching the final weight of the shelving pieces to the appropriate wall-bracket and cross bracing types.
Kitchen Islands and Bar Tops
Nature has a way of providing a relaxing and comforting atmosphere to any interior environment and kitchen islands and bar tops made from live edge hardwood slabs will never feel artificial or unnatural. After selecting the perfect wood slab to match your home’s serving and entertaining space, a competent wood worker can either build the complete serving-area unit or you can replace an existing man-made island or bar top with your well-chosen natural wood slab.
As a purely decorative touch, live edge hardwood slabs used as wall hangings can add a uniquely characteristic touch to any room. They add a rustic offset to any contemporary setting and bring an authentic part of the natural world into your home. Once you have selected the grain pattern and wood shading that best complements the room, the weight of the wood needs to be considered. As a DIY project, however, wall hangings can be somewhat less challenging than installing live edge hardwood shelving.
A Wide Range of Possibilities
In addition to the many variations of shadings and grain patterns associated with different wood species, hardwood slabs are available in all shapes and sizes. They can be used in any functional application that serves to support, organize, or separate other household items or furnishings. Wood is an innately flexible material that can be easily adapted to a wide range of uses. Live edge slabs are not limited to serving as surface areas, decorative elements or support structures. They can also be used to create smaller items such as monitor stands, wine racks, napkin holders, serving trays and candle holders. What makes their use distinctive, no matter what shape or form they take, is the unique statement they express.
A One-Of-A-Kind Aesthetic Based on Contrast
Regardless of the live edge application or use, the fact of the slab’s absence of symmetry enables it to provide an intriguing sense of contrast to the other design and functional elements in a room. You can be assured that a distinctive statement will be communicated to your guests and visitors. That statement could perhaps be best described as an appreciation for the integration of the raw beauty of the natural outside world into the constructed world of our interior environment.
Restaurant owners have caught on to the fact that their customers’ takeaway impression of their first visit can be significantly and favorably influenced by both functional and decorative live edge wood applications. Live edge wood helps promote a mood which is in sharp contrast to the sense of artificiality that can be felt in some food service settings, such as fast-food franchises.
When installing live edge slabs in your home, you are only limited by your imagination. Keep a running list or journal of ideas on how to use live edge as they come to you. Think about the different possibilities for your kitchen, living room, bedroom, etc. Given the natural beauty and contrast that it provides, live edge can be accompanied by almost any existing style you have in place.
Do It Yourself or Go With a Pro?
After deciding where and how you will incorporate live edge into your home, an important detail to address is how you will install it. Perhaps you are a staunch Do It Yourselfer who wants to handle all aspects of the projects, including selecting the slab, building the piece, and installing it in your home. If you decide to go this route, consider taking some of the aforementioned steps to ensure the piece is properly supported and secure.
If you are unsure of where to start and looking for professional assistance, be assured that there is ample help available. Find a provider of live edge slabs and speak to a professional about your visions of live edge in your home. They will be able to help you select a slab that is right for you, provide guidance on how to properly support the piece, and give tips for a seamless installation.
When it comes to incorporating a natural or rustic look into your home, look no further than live edge slabs. These versatile, timeless pieces add to the style of any room they are in. If you are looking to update the appearance of your home, use these tips to see how you can incorporate live edge slabs in your home.
Stephen Trudic is the Owner of Hardwood Lumber Company, a manufacturer of custom-made wood countertops, cutting boards, live edge tabletops, and wood stair parts out of Middlefield, OH.