Out of his wood work, an ‘organic deco’ style is born

Local creative force behind Brooks Gallery just north of San Simeon is at the forefront of the green furniture and raw wood movements

Special to The TribuneAugust 22, 2012 

  • Tips from Brooks Lawrence

    Mix your woods: It’s a common misconception that all woods in the house need to match. This creates a homogenized look where nothing stands out. Contrasting woods help individual features to stand out, such as a great wood floor, beautiful moldings or a nice piece of furniture.

    Seating options: A raw-edged table pairs well with a range of modern seating. You can combine very sleek dining chairs with a slab dining table, or a contemporary sofa with a freeform, raw wood coffee table.

Brooks Lawrence has long been ahead of the curve in furniture design trends, though it wasn’t always intentional.

Years before salvaged wood furniture was all the rage, he began creating pieces out of wood from fallen trees, mainly for practical purposes.

“At that time, it was more affordable for me because we had so much material here and I could mill my own wood,” he said.

Soon afterward, Lawrence found himself at the forefront of the green furniture and raw wood movements. Lawrence, who won a Cal Poly industrial arts show as a freshman at Coast Union High School, decided to stay local and opened his first gallery in Cambria in 1995. Recently, Brooks Gallery moved two miles north to San Simeon. The new larger location showcases Lawrence’s work as well as sculpture by Dale Evers and paintings by Rowan Chase.

Lawrence still mills his own wood, responding to calls from tree surgeons and ranchers who ask him to haul away fallen trees. He primarily works with Cambria pine, Monterey cypress, California sycamore, black and claro walnut, maple, Big Sur redwood and cottonwood.

Although his method hasn’t changed, his style has come full circle. As a young woodworker, he started out doing art deco pieces. Over the years, his work became more organic and free-form. Now, with the re-emergence of midcentury modern design, he is once again mixing in deco furniture — but with a difference.

“Each time a trend comes back, it seems to be broader than it was,” he said. “Deco now has a wider range with more colors, textures and lines.”

He calls his style “organic deco,” where the hard lines of modern design are softened by raw edges and bold wood grains. “It takes those severe lines, which I love, and makes the pieces more palatable for people,” he said. While his own tastes veer toward modern, he works in a range of styles, especially when he constructs custom pieces. He crafts everything from abstract sculptures to dressers and beds, but the bulk of his business is building dining tables. He is best known for his raw-edge tables, which are organically shaped slabs cut from a cross section of tree. The tables can be rustic, or made more refined with intricate inlays.

Lawrence does not use paint or stain on his wood furniture. His indoor furniture and sculpture are finished simply with water based polyurethane. It keeps the wood as close as possible to its natural color, and adds to the eco-friendly appeal of his work.

Brooks Gallery is at 9255 Hearst Drive in San Simeon. 805-924-1506, www.brooksgalleryonline.com.

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