Fun fact: Lazy Susan dining tables are neither Chinese nor classic. But, a custom made Chinese dining table with seating for 12 was exactly what Sydney local, Rayn Ong, came to Handkrafted to find. The end result? A contemporary twist on a supposedly classic table.
Finding a dining table in Sydney that seats 12 people is no small feat. Just ask Rayn Ong. When Rayn had no luck at the usual haunts, he came to Handkrafted seeking a custom made Chinese ‘Lazy Susan’ dining table. His one major requirement? It must be large enough to comfortably seat 12 family members for their weekly dinners.
Contrary to popular belief, the Lazy Susan, or so-called classic centerpiece of most Chinese restaurants, turns out to be neither classic nor historically Chinese. In fact, it is believed that this style table originated in America in the 1950’s, in San Francisco’s Chinatown of all places! Shortly after, it was imported to China and around the world, where it has become ubiquitous with Chinese dining.
Aligning nicely with this history, Rayn desired an Australian, minimalist take on the oft-ornate Chinese dining table. He asked that the rotating centerpiece sat close enough to tabletop’s edge for his young family members to be able to reach dishes with chopsticks. Last but not least, Rayn also wanted the tabletop to be made of a material that would be easy to clean, as Chinese dinners often feature soup.
After being matched with a curated selection of Handkrafted makers, Rayn decided to choose Evan Dunstone, of Dunstone Design in Canberra, for his professionalism and attention to detail. Case in point, Evan invited Rayn and his wife to visit the workshop in Canberra, and walked them through the design, process, and options; Rayn described this unique experience as “a ‘meet the creator’ moment” that he greatly enjoyed.
Rayn’s custom dining table reflects the perfect balance of East meets West, which given the history of the Lazy Susan, could not be more fitting.
“Given the spirit of the brief, I felt that the timber should be Australian,” Evan said. “Once Rayn had settled on the Australian Granite – the ‘key decision’ – the deep red of Jarrah was the natural choice.” The reddish hue of the timber: the Chinese national color representing happiness, beauty, success, and good fortune, acts as the perfect counterpart to the dark speckled Australian granite. To top it off, the octagonal Jarrah wooden base pays homage to lucky number 8 in Chinese culture, which pronounced ‘ba’ sounds similar to ‘fa’, meaning ‘prosperity’.
“Stone and timber are wonderful materials to combine,” Evan remarked. Keeping the emphasis on local materials, Evan collaborated with a nearby stone mason, Damian Morris. He described their joint effort as “fusion furniture” (a play on “fusion food” or creating something new by incorporating the best parts of two or more traditions). This time the fusion was a combining of traditional Chinese elements with modern craft techniques and local materials.
Indeed, the Lazy Susan story goes both ways. Evan, who has created bespoke furniture for more than two decades, described Chinese furniture as the “original” fine furniture. “It was not until European craftsmen saw Chinese furniture that design and craftsmanship really took off in the West,” he said. “I have found a very high level of knowledge and understanding of fine furniture within the Chinese Australian community.”
At the end of the day, finding a table to comfortably seat 12 turned into a rewarding experience for both Rayn and Evan. The two thoroughly enjoyed the process of creating a custom made Chinese “Lazy Susan” style dining table. Rayn described Evan as a “pro” and spoke highly of his Handkrafted experience commissioning a one of a kind piece. “I think we are actually buying an experience and a backstory that we can tell our children…while eating at the table,” Rayn said.
“The process is about a lot more than just the final result,” Evan harmonised. “Every piece becomes a family story as well as a piece of furniture. This project reinforced my belief that there is a lot of scope for more ‘fusion furniture’ in the future.”
Handkrafted is a community marketplace connecting people with passionate makers to commission custom goods. We have brought together hundreds of Australian independent, bespoke craftspeople and artisans who specialise in producing high quality, sustainably made pieces.
Our makers can help you realise your own idea or collaborate with you on a new design. Many also feature a range of original designs that can be made to order or customised to suit your specific needs. Whichever option you choose, we’re here to help make it happen. Support local makers and kick-start your own project today.
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