By Matthew Burak, Founder, TableLegs.com
Standing in a hotel lobby years ago, I began to study a particularly attractive antique leg under a serving table. After some time, I stood up and found a number of people also bent over looking under the table trying to figure out what had me so engaged. Once I saw the group around me, I stood up and said, “That’s a gorgeous leg!”—much to the onlookers’ surprise.
For me, the learning never ends. How does one achieve excellence in design? The unconditional elements are loving what you do and putting in your time. Ever since I was a small boy, I’ve had a passion for building and antiquities. Today, drop me off in any town and I’ll inevitably find my way to the oldest neighborhoods and the antique district. You never know when or where the next learning opportunity will present itself.
My passion for the architecture and furnishings of colonial America was so strong that, in 1979, I uprooted my family from Bellingham, Washington and moved to rural Vermont. We settled into a poorly remodeled 1780's cape style farmhouse in the hilltop town of Danville.
I thrived on the demands of the house restoration project and of my reproduction furniture business. Late one evening, sitting weary but content at the supper table in the half-done Kitchen, I found myself admiring the simple beauty of the newel post at the base of the stair. I said to myself, ‘that would make a nice table leg.’
From Humble Beginnings
The very next morning, I profiled the 5" newel and turned a prototype table leg. Because of the influence of the ‘lightness’ of Federal period furniture on my design sense, I decreased the turning from a 5" diameter to a mere 2 1/4''.
I was very pleased with the outcome, and made a cherry dining table using this newly drawn leg design. I put the table on the showroom floor among the Queen Anne, William & Mary and Hepplewhite furniture I had made. The new table, which I called "Country Sheraton", prompted only favorable criticism, and lots of furniture orders as well!
Tables featuring the Country Sheraton leg quickly became best sellers. I shortened the design for end stand legs. Those sold well. I increased the diameter of the leg to 2 3/4" for use on larger tables. Those sold well, too. Everyone loved the relaxed but historical look of this leg. It was and still is, a transitional style that blends with a wide variety of décor.
One day, a good customer returned to the showroom, asking if I would design a coffee table for her period-style sitting room. She knew that there were no coffee tables in Colonial America. But, she and I decided we could make a coffee table look more period by giving it a box stretcher, like the foot rail around an old tavern table. I shortened the shaft of the Country Sheraton design to make room for a stretcher block, and linked the four legs with a foot rail. It was a great look, and over the years, I sold many a coffee tables using the same 303CS coffee table leg, too.
An Instant Classic Design
I began to get requests for kitchen island work in the mid 1990's. For the very first job, I created a stretcher block kitchen island leg based on the newel post and the coffee table leg design. As Great Rooms became popular, I kept increasing the scale and size of the kitchen island legs, first offering 3 1/2" diameter turnings, then 4 3/4", then 6". They all sold well. The transitional styling that worked in a variety of room settings enchanted people!
As the years rolled by, and the trend of giving cabinetry the ‘furniture look’ took hold, I used the old newel post design again, this time creating kitchen island legs with fluted and reeded shafts for a more formal furniture look. Those sold well. As demand for small interior wood columns rose, the antique newel post design was used once more as the foundation for the best-selling Essex column line.
My team and I have created more than 500 individual designs that in some way contain the DNA from that 200-year-old newel post. Just think, from that first newel post, a whole wood turning company now exists, serving businesses and people all over the world.
I sincerely hope you enjoy the beauty of our designs. We are gratified by your support.
Good luck with your project,
- Matthew Burak