In January, I visited the Red Hook, Brooklyn, studio/showroom of Jason Lamberth, a designer creating show-stopping custom furniture from rare buried teak and sustainable plantation teak from Indonesia. The wood itself is green — Lamberth, an avid environmentalist, is proactive in only working with cautious, honest plantations — but there’s one eco-caveat: Everything must be shipped from overseas.
This week I visited another Red Hook wood furniture designer, Scott Raffaele, whose work is less grand in scale, not quite as exotic, but exceptionally low-impact and local. The furnishings — a credenza, platform bed, tea table/bench, and more — that make up Scott’s 4Korners line are guilt-free, gorgeous and boast versatility appropriate for spaces large and small.
4Korners is based out of a co-op wood workshop on Red Hook’s waterfront (on the same pier as the wonderful Liberty Sunset Garden Center and the Real World Brooklyn pad) that’s shared by multiple craftsmen. The "sharing is caring" nature of the workshop leads to the need for less equipment and therefore, less waste and less energy consumption.
Salvaging is integral to the 4Korners design and building process: If someone in the workshop has excess material or scraps, it’s up for grabs. Even the sawdust in the shop (and there’s a lot of it) doesn’t go to waste — it’s donated to Red Hook’s Added Value Farm as composting material.
Scott doesn’t just salvage the scraps from others in the workshop. He’s had his own custom cabinetry and furniture business since 2001. The two-year old, “80 percent green” 4Korners line was born out of Scott’s frustration as to what to do with the excess material that he had amassed from these larger projects. Toss it? Nah. Let it sit around and collect dust? No way. Transform it into a line of striking, functional furnishings ideal for urban spaces? Bingo.
4Korner’s most striking pieces, in my humble opinion, are the ones constructed from off-cuts of various types of wood creating a striped effect. Aside from their aesthetic beauty, these pieces and others are notable for their versatility. The bar stools can also be used as side tables or be stacked to create shelving. The tea table/bench is just that: A table and a bench. Just as Scott works creative wizardry with found and leftover materials, his furniture encourages its owners to be inventive with their available space.
If the wood found in 4Korners isn’t coming from Scott’s own off-cuts, salvaged materials, or excess from around the workshop, it’s locally sourced. And even though its not always green, a significant amount of material comes from Brooklyn’s Bettencourt Green Building Supplies.
In addition to tapping local building resources, Scott gives back to the community. Scott is 4K’s sole artist and designer but his hired help is locally sourced. He enlists hand-crafty mentors from Red Hook’s Good Shepard High School, a community high school for former dropouts. Through Good Shepard’s Learn to Work program, Scott gives young adults a sense of purpose while training a new breed of sustainable furniture designers.
Next up for 4Korners? A line of eco-handbags. Scott, an endlessly enthusiastic craftsman, sees beauty and possibility in everything: Scraps of wood, discarded playground equipment, large pieces of driftwood, you name it … he transforms trash into treasure.
For those in the NYC area, Scott will be showing at the Architectural Digest Home Show later this month so be sure to stop by, say hello, and give him a high four. Just tell ‘em MNN sent ya.
4Korners @ Pier 41, 204 Van Dyke Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn. 718.909.6157
Photos: Furniture photos courtesy Scott Raffaelle; workshop photos by Matt