Small Tables By

I was born in Northern Virginia outside of Washington D.C., the son of an Electrical Engineer who worked at the National Security Agency and built his own house and was always tinkering with something. Do you think I had any other choice than to go into some sort of creative field? Being just across the river from one of the world’s greatest museums, The Smithsonian, I can still remember standing in line to see the Mona Lisa and Andy Warhol’s whimsical Campbell soup cans in the national gallery. I could be found roaming the halls of the American History Museum, filled to the brim with machinery and models of ships. From a very early age, I was able to see how every day things came to be and began to build an appreciation for art and the process.

Right from the very beginning I pursued woodworking. It was not an after thought or something I fell into, or a passion; it was what I chose for a career. After high school and the seventies my time was pretty much spent on learning the craft. I did have some sidetracks like backpacking the continental divide and meeting my wife, who is the grounding force in my life. I was also fortunate to be able to apprentice in and for some of the finest shops and noted craftsmen of that time. By the end of the decade I was in Boston, apprenticing in a conservator shop, here I became witness to all the things that don’t or won’t last, a sort of enlightenment to the limitations of this medium.

The start of the eighties found me at the Worcester Center for Crafts studying Furniture Design and production, Photography and working with metals. It was a time for experimentation and development, a place for failures, of which some are still lingering around the house. There were successes too, the Society of Arts and Crafts in Boston, which was started by the Green brothers of the Green and Green fame, took to showing and selling my work. The precept of the arts and crafts movement was that form would follow function. William Morris, one of the founders of the arts and crafts movement in England, convinced the middle class that they could have something of beauty and good quality and revolted against the inferior manufactured furniture pieces that were poorly made. There is, and always has been, a place for pretentiously decorative furniture requiring high maintenance, not to be used, too precious to touch. I just feel when the aesthetic out weighs the function it is art. If you can sit and it is comfortable it is a chair, if not, it is a sculpture, no blurred lines here.

There was a meager beginning for my first furniture shop. One of the teachers from the Crafts Center and I rented space on Commercial Street for a place to work. Here, I built a portfolio of sellable work, began showing at galleries, crafts and interior design shows. Success, growth and a blue moon flood of the down town section of Worcester prompted me to acquire a larger separate space on New Street in Worcester. There I was able to do bigger things that helped me expand. During this period, now 1987, I designed and built the Bubinga Bar(by the way that is the proper spelling of bubinga), an Arts and Crafts Bar for New Heights Restaurant in Washington DC. For this accomplishment I won an AIA award for Restaurant Design and Woodworking. Now, awards are nice, and, over the years, I have received my fair share of them, but to tell you the truth, I feel that the test of time is a greater gauge of credibility for a Craftsman and Furniture Maker. I am proud of the fact that something as trendy as a bar in Washington D.C., after 25 plus years, is still somewhat of an attraction and the quality of my work and my design, stands as a testament to my philosophies. For this I am grateful.

Arts and Crafts, Art Deco, Art Nuevo, they have always been influences on my work. They are quite apparent in the pieces I designed and produced in the eighties and nineties. During those years I was kept busy producing works for the individual and one-of-a-kind market. Around the end of the eighties I was finding the gallery work to be more a hindrance and not where I wanted the work to go, so I faded away uninfluenced. My wife Darcey and I around the mid nineties noticed that my arts and crafts influence lent itself to a broader appeal and it also was something that I stylized and can produce at the highest quality productively. That was the basis for the New American Craftsman Furniture. Here we could take everything I had learned from the past, apply improved materials like finishes and glues, stylize it to reflect our era. Something that will hold up to the rigors of life without the need of a monarch’s staff of conservators to keep the pieces alive and well like the furniture we see in our museums today. Furniture made to use and enjoy.

By 2000 we had out grown the space in Worcester and bought the building in Spencer, an old mill building with a history. Myth has it that boots were made here for the soldiers of the revolution. I do know that from the start of the twentieth century to the seventies you couldn’t buy a corn-broom in Woolworths that didn’t pass through my building. We have a picture of John and Jackie Kennedy being given one in the front of our building during his run for the Senate in the fifties. We still produce the New American Craftsmanship Furniture and make that one-of-a- kind piece every now and then. You can still find me there if you want to come by to see what it is all about. If I’m not there, I’ll probably be at some museum somewhere, giving some curator a nightmare over why they gave me permission to take a closer look at that eighteenth century buffet. Or I am out sailing, we all have our vices.

This brings us up to date of our thirty-five year history of Kowalski Furniture Design and me Robert Kowalski. Let me end with the why of the Small Tables by KFD (Kowalski Furniture Design). These small tables are an extension of the New American Furniture without the twelve to twenty week wait. What you have viewed or about to view is made with the same skill and care as everything we make, but is in stock, ready to ship. If you see it, you can buy it now and we will ship it at a very reasonable rate within a day or two and it is guaranteed. This is our mission and promise to you.

Robert Kowalski

22 Cherry Street, Spencer MA 01562
Have a question? email me