As Jodie Webb, from Autonomous Furniture Collective states, “sometimes we hold onto things in our lives, and we don’t know why at the time, but we know that one day we’ll be really glad we did.”
As curators of distinctive, hand-picked wood, Kirk Van Ludwig, owner and principal designer at Autonomous, creates organic, modern pieces with heirloom quality. When they source these exceptional pieces of wood, they have the ability to envision its potential, often without an immediate plan in mind. Enter Table 192.
The history of the wood’s curation started in 2009 when Van Ludwig saw something unique in this piece of gnarly maple left over from a cut at a privately managed wood lot in the Cowichan Valley, on Vancouver Island. The piece sat waiting for its special moment to reveal its beauty. The result is a sculpturally modern take on a natural edge coffee table that will age gracefully in a home filled with other unique pieces from around the globe.
Recently relocated to Victoria from Vancouver, Lorraine and Doug Conn, were furnishing their waterfront condo and looking for unique pieces that would fit with their west coast meets global style. Intrigued by Autonomous’ storefront while out on a walk, the Conns popped in to have a look at the showroom. “I showed Lorraine the 192 slab of maple and she lit up—she knew immediately it was the perfect piece for their living area,” says Van Ludwig. Meeting all her requirements, the piece was local, organic and had all the natural characteristics she was looking for.
According to Van Ludwig, “the wood dictates the design in many ways.” With both form and function in mind, his goal was to come up with a design that not only considered the grain, but also the vein-like dark grey tones in the wood. Following the organic spalt line curves of the tabletop, he used a high-performance concrete for the legs that allowed him to keep the supports thin and sleek. “There were a couple of beautiful burls in the wood so it seemed like a natural fit for the legs to be curved,” says Van Ludwig.
Working with Nolan Mayrhofer from Szolyd, a Victoria-based precast concrete company, Van Ludwig was confident the superior strength, durability and design flexibility of using Ductal UHPC fit with his sleek and hardwearing design vision. “The placement of the concrete legs created both a tension and a flow, allowing light and energy to travel through,” says Van Ludwig.
Originally unsure about pairing the maple with curved concrete legs, the Conns were able to envision the design once Van Ludwig visited their home and could explain the look he was proposing. A typical fall day, with white caps covering the Juan de Fuca Strait, the Conns could understand how the greys in the wood and the concrete forged a complementary pairing with the home’s natural surroundings. With a grey based wall colour, the concrete tied the condo’s colour palette together and gave the table the edge that the Conns were looking for.
Operating from the Scandinavian, less is more design aesthetic, Van Ludwig’s designs follow the lead of the wood’s distinctive character. “Custom pieces like table 192 come with a story; there is a narrative in both the wood and the design process,” muses Van Ludwig. Constantly collecting stand-out pieces, Van Ludwig has the ability to foresee a rough-edged piece of wood’s potential. Tired of searching showrooms for something unique, Autonomous Furniture clients are looking for quality, one-of-a-kind, pieces that have longevity. “This isn’t a delicate antique that you need to be careful with; you could dance on this table. I build my pieces to last a lifetime,” states Van Ludwig.