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Sex Wax Or Endust?

Living With Surfboards As Furniture

September 24, 2000|ED LEIBOWITZ

Accustomed to the ocean's endless thrills and undulations, a surfboard cooped up in an apartment can sometimes seem as disgruntled as a grounded teenager. Nevertheless, certain furniture makers are incorporating surfboards into contemporary home design.

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Surf's Up: "I look at the surfboard as my canvas," says artist Jeff Valenson, co-founder of Surf's Up. "Because of their nature, the sleekness of the shape, the surfboard is very tangible, very sexy. It's just a wonderful surface on which to apply images." Surf's Up has incorporated Valenson's designs into surfboard coffee and sofa tables, and a diagonally slung fiberglass canopy above a four-poster bed. Influences: Andy Warhol is an overall influence, and Valenson finds other cues in his work as a theater restorer. A sea horse fresco he resuscitated in an Italianate theater in Claremont informed his sea horse board, and his Catholic upbringing inspired an upcoming Virgin Mary surfboard sofa table. Seaworthiness: The 6-foot, 8-inch boards, manufactured by Fiberglass Works Unlimited in San Diego, can be liberated for wave-riding.

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Eames Etr (elliptical table with rod base, a.k.a. surfboard table): Charles and Ray Eames can be credited with the first successful surfboard coffee table. Released in 1951 and still manufactured by Herman Miller, the Eameses' inadvertent homage to an embryonic California surf culture is a laminated black plywood board on a wire base. Influences: Euclidean geometry was doubtless a greater inspiration than Duke Kahanamoku. Seaworthiness: No one has tried to surf on it "to my knowledge," says Eames Demetrios, the design team's grandson and historian. "I'd be really shocked if they did, but everyone's tried something at least once."

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Schroff's home entertainment center: One of Peter Schroff's 15-foot longboards includes an aquarium, a radio and a tap for a beer keg, an electric guitar on its nose and '59 Chevy tail lights jutting from its rear. Schroff, owner of DAR, has also designed more utilitarian furniture for the home, such as a chaise longue carved out of a 12-foot board and 20 incarnations of surfboard lamps. Influences: Schroff's work represents a "logical" bundling of his surfing mania, which began when he was 11, and a creative talent honed at CalArts. Schroff also is a veteran fiberglass shaper. Seaworthiness: Schroff's mutant surfboard centerpieces are made of fiberglass and foam, so theoretically they would be viable. He doesn't recommend it, though. One has 12 fins, and his Buddha's Kingdom model--a hand-carved antique wood Buddha presiding over a panoply of brass animals--"takes six people just to carry."

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Surf's Up, Los Angeles, (310) 550-6379; Eames office gallery and store, Santa Monica, (310) 396-5991; dar, venice, (310) 890-7460.

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