By Lauren Epstein | July 10, 2017 | Culture
Stunning handmade furniture from family-owned Chicago company Elko Hardwoods gives chic new life to Midwestern trees.
Every table tells a story: Elko Hardwoods founder Matt Thomas transforms salvaged trees into sought-after contemporary home pieces that brim with character.
“I’ve had a hammer in my hand since I was 4 years old, sitting on my dad’s workbench,” says Matt Thomas, the 28-year-old co-owner of Pilsen-based furniture maker Elko Hardwoods. It was that initial experience and innate love of creating that led Thomas to where he is today—creating some of the most stunning furniture in the Midwest.
At Elko Hardwoods, Thomas and his 26-year-old brother Jeremy have essentially coined the phrase “tree-to-table,” using wood that is locally salvaged from diseased, storm-damaged, or hazard trees, then sourced and sawn into boards and air- and kiln-dried for more than two years. Thomas then pairs the slab tops with custom-fabricated metal or acrylic bases, creating sleek, minimalist pieces that pay homage to the wood’s history with organic live edges and original knots and imperfections, ensuring that no two pieces are the same. Says Thomas, “I try [not] to interfere with nature’s design and instead try to emphasize the beauty that is naturally created.”
Case in point: one of the designer’s favorite creations, a cross-cut slab from a nearly 200-year-old ash tree from Elkhart County, Indiana, near the brothers’ native Goshen. “It was killed by the emerald ash borer and I was fortunate to salvage the log,” says Thomas. “I like the idea that this centuries-old tree will live on as a functional work of art.” 2003 S. Halsted St., 847-989-2989; elkohardwoods.com
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF ELKO HARDWOODS
June 26, 2017