Parallel Lives

Steve Brooks blurs the lines between home and work.

Amy Adams. Photography Jenny Antill.
Posted:
September 03, 2013

Stepping into The Wooden House in the Design District is a little like sightseeing inside owner Steve Brooks’ head: There’s a whole lot of territory to explore. His love of the road less traveled is reflected in his combo retail space/studio/warehouse — 6,000 square feet of far-flung finds, custom furniture and repurposed treasures. And, perhaps predictably, his Fair Park loft looks strikingly similar … minus the sawhorses, cans of varnish and woodworking tools. Both spaces invite investigation and reward visitors with tiny details — be they shards of fabric print blocks or Tibetan prayer bells — that deliver visual punch.

 

How did you get into the furniture-making game? I got my start with a wholesale importer based out of L.A. As I was primarily sourcing product overseas, my knowledge grew from the back end of the business. Learning how things should be made was an important part of the selection process. I still import but also build furniture in-house. It’s been a steep learning curve, but having the ability to mix great imports with custom furniture, lighting and flooring has been fantastic. Working with my hands, employing more people here in the
U.S. and using local resources such as reclaimed American hardwoods have been incredibly rewarding.

Most cherished possessions: My vizsla Cayden, my vintage Turkish rug, my Indian Ayurvedic medicine cabinet turned TV credenza and my passport — more so because of how I feel when it’s in my pocket while I’m on the road.

Tell us a little about that medicine cabinet. Several years ago, I found it while traveling in Northern India. It’s from the 1940s and has hundreds of small compartments, each with Hindi writing and pictures of various herbs used to treat ailments in the ancient Ayurvedic tradition.  

An artist who inspires you: Hemingway, because he kept communication simple and to the point and was an explorer who followed his own path. And Ralph Waldo Emerson, by way of his insight into the human condition. A favorite quote is “Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”

The first piece of furniture you ever made? A 19th-century hallway bench reproduction crafted from reclaimed American pine.

Nature or nurture? Interestingly, my great-great grandfather was a woodworker who immigrated near the turn of the century. He crafted his own tools, some of which I now have in my home, and very intricate cabinetry. When we were young, my brother and I made projects at the very same workbench he used all those years ago.

It appears that many pieces from The Wooden House ultimately migrate to your home. Any finds you simply can’t bear to sell? I am okay parting with certain things. Change in my home is welcome and encourages creativity. But my vintage living-room rug (it’s full of color and marks from its history in a Turkish dye house), tea tables and teak side chair won’t be going anywhere.

How do you know when a product is right for The Wooden House? It’s a matter of how it all mixes together. I like to focus on purpose and quality. But, in the end, it’s all about how it looks.

You’ve been working on new wood finishes. What’s your personal favorite? I love returning reclaimed wood to its original state. I also enjoy using various processes to improve the appearance of less expensive wood, thus offering clients pieces at a better price point. Not everyone can afford that reclaimed teak dining table!

Do you and your twin brother have that telepathic thing going on? While it’s not quite like that, Craig and I know each other extremely well. We can often read each other’s thoughts without speaking, sense things in each other without much effort. Having a twin is pretty cool.

Recommended Fair Park haunts. Meridian Room has great food and people, and Amsterdam Bar has amazing music nights and a laid-back interior.

What’s the most important piece of furniture someone can own? A good bed — I love my sleep. A great desk is important, too. Work is work but can be greatly enhanced with good surroundings.

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