“I approach every design—a building or piece of furniture—as a problem that needs to be solved,” says designer Aaron Poritz. A B.Arch graduate of California College of the Arts, Poritz recently launched a new furniture line. Here’s the twist. The collection is made in Nicaragua from wood sourced from the country’s North Atlantic Autonomous Region, where a 2007 hurricane had felled thousands of hardwood trees.
Connections hooked him up with the mill and its singular materials, and the rest is history. “It was a great opportunity to use wood that I'd never want to or would support cutting down,” he says. “I saw it as a chance to do a line and spent six months prototyping the collection.”
The tropical hardwoods have allowed him to experiment with shapes and forms. “I like to express the capacity of materials," says Poritz. "The wood in Nicaragua is dense and allows me a certain degree of thinness that I couldn’t achieve with American woods. Since it’s so strong, I can make a chair that’s thin with non-standard angles.”
The Balcones dining chair, which started life as a commission for a friend, was the first piece Poritz designed. As with the rest of the pieces in the collection, the look is contemporary, warmed up by the rich wood. He keeps the ornament to a minimum—a touch of darker wood here and there. The real interest is in the form itself. “I took classic joinery and applied it in a more modern feel,” he says.
Practical considerations drive his formal decisions to some extent. “They don’t have fancy machinery. Most of the work is done by hand by skilled carpenters, so there aren’t a lot of curvilinear forms,” he says. “Most of the pieces are angular straight. It’s partly my aesthetic but also being realistic about what they can do at the mill—and if it can be repeated.”