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Custom Furniture for Living in Style

February 27, 1992|SUSAN GEMBROWSKI

Whether you're home alone, entertaining guests or spending a quiet evening with your family, you want where you live to be a comfortable and inviting place that reflects your individuality.

A little innovation--adding a carefully crafted table, a new fabric to your chairs or a front-yard seating area--can give your space a fresh outlook.

North County has scores of craftsmen and designers creating custom and customized furnishings for the home. It has nurseries to help turn your landscape into an intimate garden. It has shops that supply you with the materials you need to do things yourself. It has creative people with ideas you're free to borrow, or if you like, hire to put their talents to work just for you.

On the following pages, a report on some of what's happening on the home front in North County. Often working out of settings as cozy as their garages, North County's custom furniture builders are creating everything from desks with secret compartments to ergonomic chairs, from kid-sized shelves to gallery-quality tables.

Crafting a piece of furniture to meet your precise needs, or giving you the opportunity to add a unique piece to your home sets custom furniture makers apart from others in the business.

From the utilitarian to the sublime, here are a few of the North County artists and craftsmen making one-of-a-kind furniture:

Exotic woods

Kit Wilson's furniture--at home in art galleries and living rooms--is often crafted from exotic woods. Among the woods he uses are South American cocoloba, which has black striping and comes in oranges, purples and reds; Central American goncalo alves, in browns and yellows; and a curly Africa wood, shedua .

"These are precious materials, especially in today's world," Wilson said. "If I'm going to use them, I have to do something that has real value to it beyond that of satisfying a market. I want to do something that will endure longer than my lifetime."

One of Wilson's current projects is a modular unit that will disassemble to move to a different place, or to create a different look. "It will not necessarily be a static piece once it's done," he said.

"I try to make something that goes beyond just a functional piece of furniture, something that adds an artistic element," Wilson said of his work. "I try to do things that have a feeling of motion in the patterns and geometric shapes so it takes on a different look than the essential function you want it to perform."

A San Diego art gallery, Signature, now has some of Wilson's pieces on display. One is a high, long, hall table that is modeled after the only wooden truss bridge in San Diego. Wilson used an engineering theme to give the table the feel of the Jacumba bridge. The $4,500 piece is made of an African wood called shedua and is joined together with green-patinaed brass.

Prices for Wilson's art furniture start at $600. He works with individual clients and draws a design the customer approves before he begins work on commissioned pieces.

Kit Wilson Furniture Art, 575 N. Twin Oaks Valley Road, San Marcos, 744-6240, hours: Mon.-Sat. by appointment. Spanish accent

Peter Alexander Grau designs and makes Spanish-style pieces in his Solana Beach shop. Grau has a small showroom and woodworking studio on the premises, where he crafts armoires, beds, dining sets and tables.

He has a few standard designs, but usually makes no more than five of the same piece. The difference comes in the hand carving on each item and the color that is used to accent the wooden furniture.

For example, Grau paints the hand carving on the doors of his armoires blue, green, yellow, red, turquoise or any other color a customer wants. His pieces appear squarish and solid, and have a rustic look.

"I do the joints like someone used to do 100 years ago," Grau said. "Most guys today do modern joinery, which I refuse to do."

Prices range from $250 to $2,500 for a custom-built, hand-finished piece, and delivery time is usually three to four weeks.

Peter Alexander Grau, 111 S. Cedro Ave., Solana Beach, 259-0353, hours: Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; or by appointment. Unexpected details

From his home workshop in Vista, furniture maker Dick Hardwick crafts only free-standing pieces, such as a cherry wood executive desk that disassembles into four sections for ease of movement and shipping.

The desk features a concealed electrical panel that opens at the touch of a finger and solid cherry drawers with interlocking dovetail joints. According to Hardwick, the design is so flexible that he has constructed at least five style adaptations.

The adaptation of a coffee table design demonstrates Hardwick's versatility. To achieve three different looks with the same design, he constructed one table in a geometric pattern, another of rosewood with a leather top and a third that was finished with black lacquer.

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