Wonders in Wood
February 21, 2018
One honors traditional, the other redefines industrial, but both these Connecticut furniture makers craft exquisite pieces for the home.
Text by Lisa H. Speidel
Get Back Inc. owner Tim Byrne has a fitting nickname: “The Eye,” a moniker he earned for his ability to see the beauty—and utility—of industrial objects destined for the dump. An early adapter of the vintage-industrial aesthetic, Byrne started his company back in 2000, foraging for castaways in factories and workshops. In his capable (and creative) hands, a wooden gear pattern converts to a chandelier, a “Portelvator” machinist’s cart morphs into a bar cart, and a 1920s cast-iron crank engine hoist paired with a woven rattan Nanna Ditzel hanging egg chair becomes the chicest seat in town.
Byrne’s shop, whose name is rooted in the philosophy of “getting back the spirit and romance of an earlier age,” produces two tiers of work: one-of-a-kinds and originals. The latter can be crafted in multiples and customized. Take, for example, the swing-out seat, a wall-mounted stool modeled after an early-twentieth-century English cafeteria stool, or the Gramercy Lamp, one of which appears in every room in the Julian Schnabel–designed Gramercy Park Hotel. The mission of Get Back Inc. runs deep, says the company’s content manager, Aaron Fagan. “It’s not just an aesthetic, it’s also about preserving history and our cultural heritage.” Oakville, CT, getbackinc.com
I’m sixty-four years old,” says Peter Van Beckum. “I came to this a long time ago.” In fact, it was back in the late seventies, when he was part of the team rehabbing the nineteenth-century Fess Hotel in Wisconsin that he got his start. “They needed interior doors built, and I said, ‘I can do that.’ I had no experience, but they came out gorgeous,” he remembers. Years later, Van Beckum found his way to the North Bennet Street School in Boston, where he was classically trained. Today, he designs and makes exquisite commissioned pieces—tables, chairs, cupboards, headboards—many of which are reproductions or adaptations of eighteenth-century furniture.
There’s the stunning thirty-foot-long table he built for the Old State House in Hartford, for instance, the elegant breakfront cupboard he designed for a gentleman that was inspired by a piece he fell in love with during his mother’s time working in a library, and the very careful reproduction of a serpentine Bombé chest of drawers from the RISD Museum collection. The RISD catalog describes the original as “a great feat of woodworking skills.” The same can be said of Van Beckum’s meticulous version—in fact, it can be said of all of his creations. Farmington, CT, petervanbeckum.com