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George Nakashima : The New Hope of Modernism

George Nakashima. When you hear that name it is indistinguishably kindred with great modernist furniture. Never to be replicated; each piece made with the spirit of the tree and his heart and soul.

A young George Nakashima in his early shop

Image courtesy of Woodworking Network

Nakashima was an architect, working with Antonin Raymond in India and Japan. He later realized that while he appreciated architecture, he wanted to create furniture so that he could be in charge of the quality from beginning to end. He moved to the United States and was forced to uproot his family to Idaho during Pearl Harbor and work in a camp. During this time, Nakashima learned his signature butterfly joint from a friend who did traditional Japanese woodworking.

George Nakashima in his studio with a large table

Image courtesy of 360modern

In 1943 with Antonin Raymond’s sponsorship, Nakashima moved his family to New Hope, Pennsylvania to work on Raymond’s chicken farm. With modest beginnings in a garage on the property, he would work to develop and polish his craft. He would later expand his business in the Delaware County by purchasing a property and creating his own workshop.

Nakashima for Widdicomb 7 drawer walnut tall chest with gallery top

Nakashima for Widdicomb 7 drawer walnut tall chest with gallery top

His pieces were each unique and extraordinary; exemplary archetypes of modernist design.

Using free edge, fissures, and joinery, Nakashima would build only the most exceptional quality chairs, tables, hanging wall cabinets, you name it. He went on to create a small line of furniture with Knoll Studios and in 1958 with Widdicomb Furniture Co that popularized his work, ushering it into everything from contemporary condos to modish mansions.

Walnut Nakashima style coffee table, freeform edge top

Oddly enough, Nakashima never signed his work! If there was ever a signature, it would be of the client he made the custom piece for, signed in marker on the bottom.

You don’t have to be a famous designer, athlete, or movie star to own Nakashima furniture or home Décor. Auction houses like ours here in Chadds Ford, PA, not far from his workshop in New Hope, have come to aquire and sell pieces such as (2) Nakashima walnut 3 legged Mira chairs and some of his collection he made with Widdicomb.

2 George Nakashima walnut 3 legged Mira chairs

Pair of George Nakashima walnut 3 legged Mira chairs

Though Nakashima passed away in 1990, his work and legacy live on with his daughter Mira who continues to design for and run the company. Located on Aquetong Road in New Hope, PA you can visit and tour the facility by appointment.

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