CHICAGO FURNITURE MAKER DIGS THE VIBE OF URBAN WOOD


Brian Keith Ellison’s passion for design steered him away from a career in real estate development and toward launching BKE Designs to manufacture one-of-a-kind furniture pieces. Many of the pieces he fabricates at his Chicago studio incorporate urban wood reclaimed from greater Chicagoland’s urban forests.

Ellison said he has been using urban wood in some of his projects for about 10 years. Two recent examples of custom furniture BKE Designs designed and fabricated with urban wood are shown here. In each case the wood was milled by Horigan Urban Forest Proctus of Skokie, IL.

The first is a conference table for which Ellison book matched a pair of 11-foot by 24-inch live-edge white oak planks. 

The second is a custom console/entertainment unit which Ellison said was fabricated using an approximately 5-foot black walnut live-edge piece.

Ellison explained why he chose to use urban wod for each of the pieces created for separate clients. “The aesthetic goal of the designs made this material most appropriate.”

Ellison, who holds a degree in architecture from the University of Illinois-Chicago, honed his woodworking skills in high school. After 15 years in the real estate development industry, Ellison made a dramatic life changing move to Amsterdam to focus on woodworking and design full time. There he collaborated with the late Dutch designer Faas van Dijk for two years.

In addition to running BKE Designs, Ellison creates public art and volunteers his time to conduct woodworking workshops including for local youth and the Safer Foundation, a non-profit provider of services designed exclusively for people with criminal records.

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