“Love of wood is something that all mankind has in common. Regardless of where people come from, they cannot stop themselves from letting their hands stroke a piece of wood, hold it, sniff it, and experience the material.”
Edward studied at the London College of Furniture where he pursued his passion for working with solid wood. He then began restoring antique furniture and acquired a knowledge of traditional wood finishes working at Rupert Bevan Ltd. He initially specialized in gilding and painting before going on to tackle everything from French polish to modern lacquers.
In 1995, these skills brought him to work in Vietnam, where he helped train local artisans in specialist finishes for the export furniture industry.
The result of this first visit to Vietnam was an enduring interest in the country and the endless manufacturing possibilities it presented. Many trips to Asia followed, where he sourced products and designed for local manufacturers in China, Vietnam, Indonesia and India. But a strong desire to create something different still lingered, something that made use of the materials, recipes and techniques of old to bring out the natural beauty of solid wood furniture.
Justin was born near Sherwood Forest, Nottingham and growing up, shared the same passion for design and nature as Edward. He first started producing live-edge furniture, which makes use of the natural shape of the tree, while living in Hanoi in 1998. On a trip to a craft village north of the city he met Duc, a like-minded artisan who turned his designs into reality. They would spend days looking for the perfect slabs of timber for a particular piece.
By 2005, Justin’s quest for the ultimate timber source for his live-edge furniture was bordering upon obsession and had taken him to see timber merchants from Croatia to Canada. Sustainability, large diameters, correct kiln drying, beautiful colour and a strong definition between the mature heart-wood and the young sapwood were just some of the qualities he was searching for.
So, when Justin and Edward met in 2003, it didn’t take long for their interest in solid wood, their shared love of design and passion for sustainability to spark a firm friendship.
In 2007 Square Roots was born, with the aim of bringing together this unique combination; the secrets of the alchemist finisher and the wisdom of the woodsman.
The inspiration was to marry Edward and Justin’s skill-sets, which dovetail so well. The mission was to create modern furniture with clean lines, and a natural, organic spirit. This philosophy became known as Square Roots.
They are inspired by mid-twentieth century designers, in particular master craftsmen such as Hans Wegner and George Nakashima.
Using natural forms and embracing the characteristics of solid hardwood, many designs include the natural ‘live’ or ‘waney’ edges of the tree and use large sections of timber. All of them incorporate variations in grain, colour and texture.
‘Keeping designs simple and light is the most effective way to spotlight the soul of the tree. By balancing the flowing beauty of nature with finely engineered structures we can showcase man’s understanding of the rational and the aesthetic’ – JUSTIN
‘It’s inspiring to think that hardwood has been used as a building material since the dawn of time and the joinery techniques we use follow a tradition dating back hundreds of years. Today it’s still one of the most ecologically sound and beautiful of materials to use’ – EDWARD
“The best friend of earth and of man is the tree. When we use the tree respectfully and economically, we have one of the greatest resources on the earth.”
Square Roots takes great pride in understanding oak in all its complexity. By selecting the best quality and most environmentally responsible suppliers they produce an exceptional quality product.
The upland Burgundy region of France has cool climatic conditions with forests that produce harder, heavier timbers. This French oak has distinctive grain patterns and a beautiful pale colour. The wider girths and larger lateral limbs result in characterful wood that is rich in tannins.
Justin’s travels led him to this region where he found two mills that are certified by the PEFC forestry management system (www.pefc.org). By working directly with these mills, Square Roots achieves two of its core aims; procurement of the best quality timber and complete confidence in the sustainable management of that timber source.
The integrity of Square Roots’ products is in stark contrast to much of the other oak furniture on the market, which is comes from smaller, less mature trees that are inferior in strength and are not managed sustainably.
Wood constantly reacts to the environment that surrounds it, by attempting to create a balance between the moisture in the air and the moisture inside its cells. This causes movement across the grain. Allowing for this movement is absolutely crucial to a well-engineered design.
Maintaining the right environment is also critical to the long-term health of Square Roots furniture. The coldest winter months are the most important to monitor. This is when showrooms and homes are sealed from the elements and heating is applied to the sealed air. This can lower the relative humidity of the air to as low as 6%. The moisture content of a dining table top will be around 12%, so moisture will leave the timber to join the atmosphere and the timber will shrink.
In order to prevent timber from drying out during winter, it is essential that rooms are humidified. This can be achieved with special humidifiers but also by simple measures such as leaving out bowls of water to evaporate.
In particular, be sure that items are never placed on top of under floor heating, next to radiators and air conditioning units or in direct sunlight.
In many cases small cracks which open up in dry conditions, will close again when the correct humidity is achieved. Always remember that solid wood is not static, it is a living, breathing material that adapts to the world around it. Small hairline cracks should not be feared, they are to be expected during the lifetime of a piece and are part of the nature of the material. When treated correctly Square Roots furniture will last for generations.
Many Square Roots designs use recycled, sand cast iron. This involves the collection of old engine blocks, obsolete machines and disused equipment. This material is melted at over 1500 degrees in a furnace before being set in carefully crafted sand molds. The traditional process is highly skilled and can produce a great variety of shapes and effects.
The metal is then finished by oxidizing the surface for a natural black paitina or other effects are created by traditional gilding techniques.
Solid brass is also cast or cut by hot wire to form small components before being patinated into a variety of colours.
“There are no styles modern or traditional, only good, bad, honest or dishonest .”
Inspired by the ancient Japanese technique called Shou Sugi Ban, Square Roots Burnt Oak is created to mimic the same colour and texture created by burning the wood surface. The resulting finish is hard wearing with a deep, dark brown burnt oak colour. The top surface is protected with a layer of wood finishing oil
The finishes that distinguish Square Roots’ designs have been developed over years of experimentation. Some are based on old recipes handed down by antique restorers while others are entirely new, developed in the Square Roots factory.
Oak is very high in tannins, which gives scope for the creation of interesting colours and effects. The alchemy lies in combining these with special chemical preparations, which then react to create many beautiful finishes. The advantage of these processes is that the colour penetrates deep into the wood and it won’t scratch or rub off over time. Each individual piece has its own unique look, based onthe grain patterns and the strength of the natural tannins present in the timber.
To enhance and protect the colours created by the finishing processes, the best imported European products are used as topcoats. The preference is for hardwearing finishing oils rather than lacquers. These vegetable-based oils are blended with modern resins to give a natural look but with greatly improved performance. They offer good water and scuff resistance, they don’t chip or flake and are easy to maintain and repair.
Oak darkens over time and when cared for correctly will last a lifetime, developing a deeper, evermore beautiful patina.
“Art is the overflow of emotion into action.”
“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.”
To clean or wipe up any spills use a soft, damp cloth with mild detergent. Never leave spillages – remove them immediately with a blotting action. For protection against heat and liquids use tablemats and coasters. Any objects on the surface need to be moved regularly to avoid shading and when writing, a mat should be used to protect surfaces from marking.
Every six to twelve months, depending on usage, the surface can be rubbed back lightly with a mild abrasive. We recommend a fine scotch brite pad (No. 96) or some fine
wire wool (000 Grade). Then apply a thin coat of furniture oil with a soft cloth, being careful to keep the application even, with coverage between 80 – 100 ml per square meter. The oil will be completely dry after 3-4 hours and can then be lightly rubbed again to even out any streaks or smears.
If damage occurs, the oiled finish can easily be repaired. A dent, scratch or stain should be carefully sanded back using sand paper. Make sure to sand an area around the
damage and not just the small damaged spot, as this will make it easier to match in the repair. Clean away all dust, and using a soft cloth, apply an even coat of oil over the
whole area. When this is dry, check to see if it needs another light coat to match the surrounding area. Finally rub the whole surface to create a seamless repair.
“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”