Lowry London

Sapele Coffee Table + Chair – Barbican Centre

Sapele coffee table we designed and made for a client in the Barbican centre. ‘Beton Brut’ = ‘Raw Concrete’ = the idea that materials are used in their unfinished or raw state. This concept was used heavily in the 1960s and 70s architecture that became known as Brutalism.

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Materials + Process

Part of the Mahogany family, sapele trees tower in the forest up to heights of 150ft. Rich and golden brown in colour the wood has densely packed closed-grain structure allowing finishes to bring out deep patterns within the wood.

All the components are made from 75mm square section and the dimensions are all exact multiple of that measurement.

To continue brutalist ideas, we took the areas of construction which would traditionally have been hidden in cabinetmaking and showcased them. For example, in Victorian England ‘endgrain’ (the part of the tree that would show if you cut horizontally through a tree) was considered vulgar in furniture and so all joinery on show would be designed and made in such a way as to hide the endgrain. In this piece, the contrasting colours that endgrain provides look beautiful so we chose to show it off on these pieces – you can see it in the below image as the dark squares that accentuate the chair’s components.

The Sapele is very thick stock at 3” x 3” dimensions. From the lumber yard, the wood begins as a large rough sawn log that has been dried at the yard for a period of a few years.

The milling process then begins with planing and thicknessing to make the sides parallel and perfectly square.