Leaf Handcrafted Furniture has grown from a love and a dream of creating eye-catching pieces that are made from materials that have a story to tell. As an acronym for “Live. Environmental. Architectural. Functional”, all of Lars and Leesa’s creations are inspired by their clients, materials and environment, always striving to create pieces that can be kept for a lifetime and beyond.
We recently sat down with Lars Laug, the maker at Leaf Handcrafted Furniture. Canadian born, Lars started out as a ski technician in Western Canada. This is where he met his partner, Leesa. Lars and Leesa soon moved to Australia and, inspired by his surroundings, Lars discovered his love for design and timber. After years of Lars working as a carpenter building architectural homes on the Northern Beaches of Sydney and Leesa’s work at Rewind Mid Century Furniture restoring unique pieces from the mid-century, Lars and Leesa teamed up to create Leaf Handcrafted Furniture where they feed off of each other’s creative ideas and come up with unique pieces that are functional, modern and last for generations.
This Walnut JJ bedroom furniture suite was commissioned via Handkrafted and was one of our favourite projects of 2019.
Hi Lars! Tell us a bit about yourself, Leesa, and what led you to furniture making.
I’ve always had a love of woodworking, even as a child. After meeting Leesa while I was living and skiing in Whistler B.C. (I’m originally Canadian), I moved over to Australia with her and began a Carpentry apprenticeship. During the apprenticeship, I was lucky enough to get stuck in quite a bit of highly detailed work but it left me wanting to do more. When Leesa and I moved from Sydney to the Tweed Coast, I was doing building work and I was finding it less and less inspiring. Leesa, on the other hand, worked at Rewind Mid Century, a mid-century furniture store, where she helped restore and sell furniture. Going to see Leesa and being around such beautiful pieces of furniture was incredibly inspiring for me, so I began making my own odd pieces from time to time which ultimately led me to the opportunity to do a completely new fit-out for our Chiropractor’s office out of solid timber – the rest is history!
LEAF is an acronym for “Live. Environmental. Architectural. Functional”. What does this represent to you?
L.E.A.F as an acronym for “Live. Environmental. Architectural. Functional” really applies to where I wanted to head towards in my building career. That said, today it translates to our furniture quite nicely. Although I’ll admittedly state that I’m not a designer in any aspect of the word, I do have a great appreciation for both intelligent design and its relationship with our day-to-day lives. Our goal at LEAF is to bring both beauty and functionality into people’s homes by creating wonderful pieces of furniture for them to enjoy. When it comes to the environmental aspect, things get a little trickier. In our personal and everyday work lives, we do our best to live as environmentally conscious as possible. We use solar power to run both our house and workshop, we’re mostly vegetarian, we recycle everything we can, and consume only what is absolutely necessary and no more. When it comes to Leaf Handcrafted Furniture, I apply as many environmentally conscious steps in my creative process as possible. Whether it’s material choices, how I dispose of waste, the fact that I strive to make pieces that will last for generations, or that, should they end up in a landfill for any reason, can easily return to the same earth from which they came from.
What’s your furniture philosophy?
Our furniture philosophy at LEAF is basic in its roots. Essentially, it’s about making something beautiful for our clients that can last for generations to come. Beyond that, I try to make things that I both like and which keep developing my abilities. I’m not one to just settle with a “that’ll do”, so I like making things that I’ve never made before, not only to challenge myself but to learn how to do it again, do it better, and aim even higher next time around. Constant progression is key to our business and to our life in general.
Do you have a signature aesthetic?
Leesa often tells people that it’s Scandinavian inspired by the mid-century. To be totally honest, I’m not sure about this myself: I make what I make. Most of what I create these days has nothing on the designs I have floating around in my brain waiting to get made – stay tuned to see how my work continues to develop over the coming years!
Who or what inspires your work and style?
There are quite a number of other makers and artists that inspire me. On the home front here in Australia, Tim Noone of Tim Noone Furniture Design is constantly blowing my mind with what he does. Ben Percy and Egevaerk are also incredible. I could go on for days as there’s many, many more, but the person that, unbenounced to him, really got me into furniture making is Jory Brigham from California. Jory’s style and approach was incredibly relatable to me. In terms of where I’d like to take my future work, I’m inspired by Morten Stenbaek. Morten’s sculpted pieces are some of the most inspiring creations I’ve ever seen, and definitely represent a direction which I’m extremely keen to go in.
Have you faced any challenges in pursuing furniture making for a living?
Mindset. For far too long I told myself it’d be too hard to pursue furniture making for a living and I kept putting it off. But once I convinced myself I could do it, I did it. It’s sort of as simple as that, except it didn’t feel that simple at the time. I’ve been contacted by quite a number of aspiring furniture makers who all want tips on how to get started, and one of the first things I tell them – provided that they have experience sticking wood together- is a strong mindset! Once you get over the enormous mental hurdle of starting a new career or challenge, you become unstoppable. Now, all that said, at times making enough money to live can be challenging – I’ll be the first to admit that. It’s taken me a long time to figure out where I fit in the industry and market, and it’s what I believe has been the biggest challenge for me so far. It’s why I gladly tell all aspiring makers everything that I’ve learned in the process of establishing myself and my creations. Hopefully my learnings will help them avoid the years of back and forth that I went through at the start of my career.
What’s your favourite part of the creative process?
My favourite part of the creative process would have to be – well – the whole creative process! I truly enjoy every single part of it. From dreaming up a design and lying awake at night thinking about every single detail about it, to pitching and selling the idea to a prospective client. From the actual making of a design, to enjoying the finished product. It’s all so incredibly fulfilling to me. I feel so privileged to be able to do what I do. Everything about the process excites me and makes me really happy.
When it comes to the environment, what is the most important thing you consider when taking on a new project?
To be brutally honest, there isn’t any one thing from an environmental perspective that impacts my decision to take on a project. Reason being that I feel that if someone comes to me for a bespoke piece of furniture, then that in itself is an environmentally motivated decision by my prospective client. Buying bespoke means that you’re investing in a product that is not only well-made, but that won’t end up in a landfill any time soon. I stand by everything that I make, and I do believe that I’ve made each of my pieces in a manner that affects the environment as little as possible. Now, I try to never boast about being super sustainable or anything like that, because I will sometimes use North American imported timbers. Once a material has had to travel across the globe it tends to cause more harm than good, in my opinion. In the future, I’d love to get to a point where I would be able to say I was always 100% sustainable. Right now, I simply do what I can with what I’ve got to help keep our environment safe.
What are your favourite materials to work with? Why?
My favourite materials are all basically wood! More specifically of late, Walnut and timbers of similar density such as Tasmanian Oak and American Oak. I’m also going to be making quite a few pieces using Tasmanian Blackwood in the next few months, which I’m super excited about. Having started out using harder Australian species such as Spotted Gum and Blackbutt, the ease of workability when using timbers like Tasmanian Oak, Tasmanian Blackwood, and American Oak is incredible! They’re much easier to machine, work and finish. Not to mention that they’re much lighter in weight, which my body definitely appreciates! Timbers like Spotted Gum and Blackbutt are incredibly beautiful timbers, but as time goes on, their place to me is less in furniture and joinery, and more in building applications.
What’s been the most unique material you’ve ever worked with?
One material that I do like due to its environmental consciousness is Paperock. Without getting too caught in specifics, Paperock is pretty much all made up from recycled materials, making it very strong and easy to work with – though crazy heavy!
Thanks for your time, Lars!
UPDATE MARCH 2021: Lars’ is booked out until 2022. As a result, he’s removed his Handkrafted profile for now as he is simply unable to take on any more orders or enquiries.
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