I have always envied wood working and the craftsmen who can unlock wood’s beauty. There is something undoubtedly romantic about creating. Turning raw materials into more, something greater than the sum of the parts, greater than the time or money investment, and something you can put your name on. One of my hobbies was already collecting and admiring furniture so it was a natural progression to give building my own a try. Maybe I am drawn to the Hollywood archetype of the relentless scientist with a wood shop in the basement or the fierce doctor who builds boats in his shed (or the psychopathic car thief ring leader from Gone In 60 Seconds?) or maybe it is a family calling I need to answer. Creating is not the most common of activities these days and I want to change that for me, but where to start? Like any expedition worth taking, it starts with a little inspiration.
The Catalini name is a relatively recent addition to the American landscape but for a majority of it’s existence it has been tied to wood and furniture. My grandfather and his brothers owned and operated “Catalini Furniture” in Fitchburg, MA for most the 20th century and were even featured as a top merchant in 1968 (is there anything a google search can’t find?).
“The Store” as it is referred to in the Catalini family lore was a mainstay for my grandfather’s generation as well as for my father and his brothers.
My father picked up the furniture legacy by earning a Master’s Degree from Rhode Island School of Design and teaching high school Industrial Arts classes (he was also featured in the New York Times for an article on antique furniture restoration). He is my partner and adviser in this project and if you were wondering exactly how I could even possibly fathom designing and building a desk, you have your answer. Without my father’s help with this endeavor I would most likely start my wood working career at bird house construction rather than copying a Hans Wegner mid-century modern desk.
Can I live up to and continue the legacy? In a few month’s time we will judge the final product but I am certainly up for the challenge.
So now I have the calling, a wise partner, and a basement full of tools – but what to make? What direction should I focus my new found energy and what will we create?
The first thing my father told me when I approached him about partnering up to build a desk was, “The design is everything. We can execute any plan we want but what good is execution on a poor design?” Creating an original design is admittedly above my head and I am not yet willing to risk months of work to build something not worthy of being built so I began my research to find something worth creating.
I had the vision of the final product in my head but rather than a photograph, I had a vaguely defined form and list of adjectives. A mid-century inspired design, elegantly simple lines, large beautiful top, bold wood grains with a Herman Miller aluminum group low-back black leather chair behind the desk in the study of my imaginary house. Built in bookshelves on one side of the room and a expansive window beyond the desk overlooking my future yard (I can dream right?). But what does that actually look like? I needed help putting an image to my day dreams and found this – a Hans Wegner desk with a Teak top and Oak legs.
My vision and pool of adjectives found a shape. This is where I want to direct my energy and this was a design worth bringing to life. Time to put my old high school drafting skills to good use and turn this idea into numbers, measurements, pieces of a larger puzzle, and develop a plan.
Inspiration, an inspiring design, a trusted adviser, and plan in hand… it is now time to get started! Construction has already begun and I hope to document the journey here from idea to desk.