Rustic Decor and Sushi…It is more than just a matter of taste!
By Tom Heatherington
There may not be two words as distantly removed from each other as ‘rustic’ and ‘sushi’, but my reaction was the same to my first encounters with each. My appreciation and understanding of ‘rustic decor’ and ‘sushi’ gradually evolved from aversion to amazement. Permit me to explain…
Many years ago I was employed by the American division of a large Japanese company. As a senior member of management, I was required to make numerous trips to Japan, and entertain Japanese visitors when they visited our facility. Regardless of the country in which we found ourselves, sushi was the preferred carte du jour. Price was never an object, but regardless of the cost of the meal, my early experiences with the taste and texture only served to make me drink more Sapporo. I simply did not have a love-at-first-bite appreciation for raw fish.
Sometime after those first unimpressive gastronomic introductions, something changed and I cannot tell you why or what was the cause, but I began to find sushi palatable. Before long I found it irresistible. To this day, sushi is a preferred dish of mine and I will often go out of my way to discover a good sushi restaurant. Undoubtedly you must be wondering what the fine-tuning of my taste buds has to do with rustic décor.
My early encounters with rustic furniture were similar to my sushi experiences. The first few times I was exposed to rustic furniture (stick chairs, twig tables, et al) I was not overwhelmed. My education in furniture design was what you might call “classical”, in that I had a serious appreciation for the graceful lines of a Queen Anne chair with carved scallop shells on the knees of its cabriole legs. Thomas Chippendale’s “Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director” was a mainstay in my shop and I referred to it often for inspiration when building a fine piece of mahogany furniture.
Rustic furniture on the other hand was not refined or sophisticated and did not fill me with appreciation for the craftsman’s talent. Much like my experiences with sushi, over time I began to develop a taste for rustic furniture’s functionality, its fascinating history and what the pieces began to say to me. The process of bending delicate willow branches into a decorative chair that would support an adult’s weight and was cool, comfortable and resembled a woodlander’s throne is an awe-inspiring example of pure genius. My initial lack of understanding evolved into meaningful appreciation.
In the same vein, using rough-hewn logs to create beds, tables, chairs and other functional pieces may not require the same fastidiousness employed by a master cabinetmaker, but the adaptation and utilization of nature is what makes one take notice. It is not the amount of detail or the intricacy of design that makes a piece of rustic furniture exceptional. It is what the piece says about itself, its function and how it relates with the surroundings that creates its delightful aura.
The intrinsic majesty of a tree is one of the reasons log homes and log furniture have such a loyal following. A traditional furniture maker may choose to saw planks from the trunk and carve elaborate designs, while a rustic craftsman will fashion a piece that appears to have grown up from the floor itself. With rustic and log furniture, form and function are complimented by nature’s distinctive characteristics. People want to surround themselves with such natural grandeur and rustic décor speaks to that desire in a way that old Thomas Chippendale probably could not understand.
Twenty years ago, I thought of raw fish as bait, and gnarled branches on the forest floor were little more than kindling. Over the years I have learned that if something is different than I think it should be, I might need to take another bite or one more look before I decide to spit it out or savor the taste.
Tom Heatherington is the founder and editor of the Log Furniture Directory and the Log Cabin Directory, “human edited” directories of log homes and rustic furniture and related information for the United States and Canada.