Chicago designer | Greta de Parry
Chicago designer Greta de Parry makes hand-hewn wood furniture, accessories and more.
Thu Nov 22 2012
What it is
Greta de Parry’s hand-hewn wood furniture, accessories, and a collection of steel and metal stools
Who she is
The daughter of a home builder in Ann Arbor, Michigan, de Parry says she practically grew up on job sites. “I was always eager to be involved in everything,” de Parry says. “I’d go to [my dad’s] job site and start climbing up the ladder to be on the roof to figure out how stuff got done.” Those experiences, combined with years of riding horses, cultivated the sense of fearlessness necessary to sidle up to a table saw. As an undergrad at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, de Parry holed up in the wood shop and was drawn to functional designs.
That was just the beginning. For the last four years, she’s been honing her craft as a woodworking/welding artist in residence at Lake Bluff’s Crab Tree Farm (where, for the first two years, she would check her e-mail next to a sheep pen). She likens the experience to the farm-to-table movement: She’s involved in the woodworking process from start to finish—beginning with dragging the wood from the fields into the mill and ending with sanding down a beautiful dining table. “The pieces that have been more successful have been a process of trying and failing,” she says. By 2010, she came out of the woodwork, literally, and moved into the city (but maintains her position as an artist in residence at Crab Tree Farm). Within a year, she made inroads toward a sustainable business, starting with developing her presence online. In addition to a steady stream of custom orders, de Parry designed the bar at Naperville’s Solemn Oath Brewery. She’s also started hosting the occasional furniture show with furniture-inspired cocktails, courtesy of various alcohol sponsors, to boot.
What she makes
Custom tables, seating and benches made primarily from fallen lumber found at Crab Tree or from urban forester Horigan. More contemporary than rustic, they range from a black walnut riff on the Eames-inspired surfboard table to a milk paint–coated birch stump. As for the scraps from her larger projects, de Parry turns them into smaller accessories, such as playful cutting boards painted to look like dominos ($139). Beyond her woodwork, it’s the Coleman stool ($349–$419), introduced last year, that’s put de Parry on the map. The concrete-topped, steel-based, stackable and adjustable stool is popping up at businesses around the country, including at stylish local Japanese restaurant Yusho. Orders have been so steady that de Parry’s been sending the steel work to a local small-batch manufacturer.