Timber Works
THE CHARMS OF AMERICAN RED OAK
3rd July 2019

THE CHARMS OF AMERICAN RED OAK

John Lewis & Partners launches Dovetail, a brand new collection made from American Red Oak, designed by Sussex-based Marque Furniture.   

It takes just 0.57 seconds to grow 1 m³ of American Red Oak, equivalent to four dining tables every minute. In fact, the Red Oak in American forests is expanding at such a rate that even when harvesting is taken into account, its volume is increasing equivalent to 20 double decker buses every hour!

Put simply, Red Oak is one of the world most sustainable woods. Award-winning furniture designer and maker Ben Fowler, of Marque Furniture, has for many years used the timber, attracted by its distinctive grain and warm tone (though not red, the name comes from its leaf colour in the autumn).

Nonetheless, this is a timber that, until now, has been underused in mainstream retail. The move from John Lewis to launch its first ever American Red Oak range marks a shift away from Europe’s preference to other woods. 

When it comes to buying wooden furniture, consumers in the UK are very particular about which timber they want to live with in their homes,” says David Barrett, buyer for John Lewis and Partners. “This means we are always on the hunt for different or interesting timber species to include in our furniture range. Red oak is a great alternative to oak, which has probably been the most widely used timber of the past 10 years. It’s a beautiful and sustainable member of the American Oak family and we are sure it will delight our customers.”

But it’s not just the fine eco-credentials that John Lewis & Partners find attractive. In Dovetail, Ben Fowler has created an exquisitely crafted, elegant, contemporary collection that showcases not only the beauty of the wood, but the essence of cabinet-making shown in the detail of the pieces. 

“We helped John Lewis & Partners by supplying them with our research on American Red Oak , all of which explained its sustainability credentials and versatility,” explains David Venables, European Director of the American Hardwood Export Council. “And in Ben Fowler we have a devoted, talented fan of the material so it was a perfect opportunity to help with this beautiful collection.”

No single joint or detail more universally characterises joinery than Dovetail. Designed to be a stronger connection detail in a time when wooden cabinets had to stay together using the ingenuity of the mechanical joints, the dovetail is as handsome as it is functional. The range features this instantly recognised, classic joint as a structural element in its design. Handles are machined from a dovetail that locks into door and drawer fronts, while vertical side columns form elegant end-grain detail on the cabinet tops, all producing a striking detail.

The character of Dovetail comes from its interesting detailing and practical, yet beautiful design, reflecting perfectly Marque Furniture’s design ethos. With Ben Fowler at its helm, Marque Furniture is driven by expert craftsmanship and a deep passion for wood and sustainability.

Fowler, who has produced ranges for other leading retailers including Marks & Spencer and Ercol, alongside some extraordinary commissions, says, “We’re delighted to have designed John Lewis’s first range in American Red Oak. I’m a huge fan of this timber: it’s easy to work with, consistent and an increasingly sustainable and beautiful alternative to European Oak. It’s loved in America where it adorns the interiors of J class yachts and Manhattan apartments alike! I’m certain the Brits will fall in love with it too.”

Dovetail will comprise an adaptable collection of cabinets and chests of drawers in three sizes, alongside a sideboard. Developed to mix and match with different door options, the collection provides many combinations of storage from a small range of furniture. 

Dovetail will be available in John Lewis & Partners stores from August.