ASPIRESIDE Chat: Wood

Chad James Group
Chad James Group

For this issue, ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME talked with designers about the wonders of wood and the many ways they like to incorporate it into their design projects. From antique pieces to gorgeous ceilings and floors, it was agreed that wood is an indispensable source for beauty and inspiration.

James Swan sat down with designers to talk about the wonders of wood and the many ways they like to incorporate it into their design projects. From antique pieces to gorgeous ceilings and floors, it was agreed that wood is an indispensable source for beauty and inspiration.


Kurt Kvist | Fairfield, NJ
Serious Cabinetry 
Frank Lloyd Wright inspired me by mixing different wood species to create outstanding kitchen designs. One in particular was in Maplewood, NJ. He used natural cherry veneer doors with a natural walnut light rail and crown molding. The knobs and door handles were natural Brazilian rosewood. It was a medley of contrasting colors without a drop of stain.
Blending book-matched veneers or burls with standard wood species creates a dramatic impact in any cabinet door. I usually make a design statement with the island only. Exotic woods are readily available for cabinet fabrication; Bubinga, Figured Sapele and zebrawood are just a few species that can result in outstanding casework. Many more are available locally and are stunning woods in both veneer and dimensional lumber.


Chad James | Nashville, TN
Chad James Group 
With each design project, we always start with a vision of what we desire the finished space to become. The very first moment wood enters into our designs is when the wood pencil hits the paper and our vision is made into a tangible reality.
The design and decoration of an interior space hinges on the ability to weave many different elements together. Wood takes center stage when designing the architectural elements of a space – whether it’s a coffered ceiling or a decorative wood paneling – and I always enjoy hunting for the perfect antique wood pieces to help make the home feel curated and collected.
Growing up in the South, I find myself drawn to black walnut and have always found a special place for it in the majority of our work. I enjoy manipulating the finishes and the texture as it can truly bring on a totally different element.


Michael Mitchell & Tyler Hill |Charleston, SC
Mitchell Hill
Wood is a commitment, and when used properly, it can last forever. It’s important to think of wood as a versatile material that not only decorates a space but also brings in an element of nature unlike any other with its texture, color and sense of warmth.
When considering wood – whether modern or antique – functionality plays a big factor. For example, I had a client that wanted an island (more of a continent after I was done with it) instead of a traditional dining area. I decided that wood would be the best option because the space already had marble countertops and an overall modern, pristine feel to it. I wanted the wood to pop and create a more organic setting. Due to its use, the island called for a wood that was easier to maintain and resistant to stains and weathering. When using wood in a more decorative way, it’s important to oil and/or wax frequently.
Always be sure to use wood in a space where it’s applicable and consider its durability. You wouldn’t use wood for your bathroom floor, for example.


Patrick Cain | Los Angeles, CA
Patrick Cain Designs
When using wood as a design element, restraint is key. Think of it like cooking with salt: Without a little, life would be bland, but too much and you’re living in a log cabin.
Traditionally wood is added to warm a place up, but I like it for the organic feeling it provides when using live edge or aged planks. Lately, the way I like to avoid the overdone feeling, while still using wood, is by using the Patrick Cain Designs live-edge, concrete woodslice side tables. They provide a contemporary, modern and edgy feel (especially in white), but help tone down a client’s propensity to add too much of this design salt. It’s wood, but it’s concrete. It’s traditional, but it’s modern. It’s organic, but it’s man-made.


Alan Tanksley | NYC, NY
Alan Tanksley, Inc.
Wood in all its variations is the organic foundation for any room. It brings life to the most formal or informal environment, and is the thread that connects the interior and exterior worlds. I have a great respect for wood in nature and as decorative and functional art. It is both a setting, as with floors and millwork, and an art form, as with sculpture and furniture.
I have had the opportunity to work with masters of both, from great artisans to artists such as George Nakashima
and Alexandre Noll. I prefer furnishings that celebrate the unique character of a wood species as an enduring
statement, and I will always appreciate wood’s diversity and versatility as one of our greatest natural resources.

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