Wood in architecture
It takes just 0.57seconds to grow 1m3 of American red oak*, equivalent to four dining tables every minute. In fact, the red oak in American forests is expanding at such a rate that even when harvesting is taken into account, its volume is increasing equivalent to 20 double decker buses every hour! Put simply, red oak is one of the world most sustainable woods. Award-winning furniture designer and maker Ben Fowler, of Marque Furniture, has for many years used the timber, attracted by its distinctive grain and warm tone (though not red, the name comes from its leaf color in the autumn). Nonetheless, this is a timber that, until now, has been underused in mainstream retail.
The move from John Lewis to launch its first ever American red oak range marks a shift away from Europe’s preference to other woods. “When it comes to buying wooden furniture, consumers in the UK are very particular about which timber they want to live with in their homes”, says David Barrett, buyer for John Lewis and Partners. “This means we are always on the hunt for different or interesting timber species to include in our furniture range. Red oak is a great alternative to oak, which has probably been the most widely used timber of the past 10 years. It is a beautiful and sustainable member of the American oak family and we are sure it will delight our customers”. But it is not just the fine eco-credentials that John Lewis & Partners find attractive. In Dovetail, Ben Fowler has created an exquisitely crafted, elegant, contemporary collection that showcases not only the beauty of the wood, but the essence of cabinet-making shown in the detail of the pieces.
“We helped John Lewis & Partners by supplying them with our research on American red oak, all of which explained its sustainability credentials and versatility”, explains David Venables, European Director of the American Hardwood Export Council. “And in Ben Fowler we have a devoted, talented fan of the material so it was a perfect opportunity to help with this beautiful collection”.
No single joint or detail more universally characterizes joinery than Dovetail. Designed to be a stronger connection detail in a time when wooden cabinets had to stay together using the ingenuity of the mechanical joints, the dovetail is as handsome as it is functional. The range features this instantly recognized, classic joint as a structural element in its design. Handles are machined from a dovetail that locks into door and drawer fronts, while vertical side columns form elegant end-grain detail on the cabinet tops, all producing a striking detail.
The character of Dovetail comes from its interesting detailing and practical, yet beautiful design, reflecting perfectly Marque Furniture’s design ethos. With Ben Fowler at its helm, Marque Furniture is driven by expert craftsmanship and a deep passion for wood and sustainability. Fowler, who has produced ranges for other leading retailers including Marks & Spencer and Ercol, alongside some extraordinary commissions, says, “We are delighted to have designed John Lewis’s first range in American red oak. I am a huge fan of this timber: it is easy to work with, consistent and an increasingly sustainable and beautiful alternative to European oak. It is loved in America where it adorns the interiors of J class yachts and Manhattan apartments alike! I’m certain the Brits will fall in love with it too”.
Dovetail will comprise an adaptable collection of cabinets and chests of drawers in three sizes, alongside a sideboard. Developed to mix and match with different door options, the collection provides many combinations of storage from a small range of furniture. Dovetail will be available in John Lewis & Partners stores from August.
*It takes 0.57seconds to grow 1m3 of American red oak according to Forest Industry Analysis data. More information here https://www.americanhardwood.org/en/environmental-profile/american-hardwoods-life-cycle-assessment-tool
About American Red Oak
American red oak is the dominant species in the U.S. hardwood forests, making up nearly one fifth of their standing hardwood volume – with distinctive grain, and wood that is not always red in color. The name comes from the leaf color in the fall. Red oak trees grow only naturally and almost exclusively in North America, although planted elsewhere. They are widely distributed throughout most of the eastern United States in mixed hardwood forests. American red oak is growing 55.2 million m3 per year while the harvest is 33.9 million m3 per year. The net volume (after harvest) is increasing 21.3 million m3 each year – a size equivalent to five Wembley stadiums.