He Turns Fallen Trees Into Heirloom Furniture

Jeff Spugnardi's pieces are one-of-a-kind and built to last.

A Spugnardi rocking chair. Courtesy photo

“Heirloom furniture” typically conjures up images of things that are old, but in Jeff Spugnardi’s shop, the lineage starts now.

The Arlington woodworker is handcrafting the bespoke rocking chairs, rustic dining tables and cedar-lined chests that he hopes will be passed down through generations to come. Sometimes clients come to his studio and help build them, turning a commission into a learning opportunity.

A former Marine—he was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina—and onetime e-commerce entrepreneur, Spugnardi has a woodshop in his Leeway Overlee home, where you’ll often find him covered in sawdust (he calls it “man glitter”) and where he’s been making custom pieces inspired by the designs of legendary furniture-makers such as Le Corbusier, Sam Maloof and George Nakashima since 2008.

They’re pricey (dining room chairs start at $1,200; tables and rocking chairs are $4,000 and up), but they are built to last, offering an alternative to the cheap pressboard stuff that so often ends up in the trash.
A Spugnardi rocking chair is a labor-intensive endeavor, taking 80 shop hours to build. It’s one of the most complicated pieces of furniture to make, he explains, because of its many curves, including an ergonomically sculpted seat and “flexible, free-floating back braces.” Spugnardi estimates he has made more than 80 of them. Each comes with a custom footstool.

Fallen trees in and around Arlington (cherry, maple, walnut) provide the raw material for many of his hardwood creations. “Often, there’s a provenance to this tree,” he says. “It fell in someone’s backyard, it goes to the kiln, and then we make fine furniture out of that wood. It goes full circle.”

His designs frequently include “live edges,” knots and checks (cracks) to show off the natural characteristics of the wood. Some pieces incorporate other materials, too, such as glass and carbon fiber.

Now that more local residents are working from home, demand for quality office furniture has spiked, Spugnardi says, and he is plenty busy. “The temporary desks and chairs that people bought from Ikea in college aren’t working,” he says. “They want something custom and sized to fit a certain space. Maybe they want an adjustable-height desk. Some want a nicer chair.”

One of his latest designs is a wheeled office chair that promises the same ergonomic support and comfort of a rocking chair.

What happens to all of the scrap wood left over from furniture projects? Smaller items emanating from Spugnardi’s tool chest have included humidors, side tables and chess tables. He also sells cutting boards at Westover Market.

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