There’s something inherently beautiful about the process of shaping and carving wood, seeing it come to new life through someone’s hands. Furniture design is unique in its intimacy. These are objects we use and interact with every day. They’re tasked with holding us in all our moods and forms, supporting us through life’s many seasons. A well-constructed piece of furniture isn’t just here for you, it’s here to live alongside the generations that follow.
It’s an absolute joy to meet furniture makers who hold their craft with the pride it deserves, and the duo behind Karben Wood certainly do. I had the pleasure of meeting Lia Karras and David Benson at the Toronto Interior Design Show earlier this year where they introduced their founding collection of small batch furniture. They are warm, generous people with an obvious respect for both their craft and the business behind it.
Lia, a former interior designer, and David, a former lawyer, met in a cabinetmaking program. Together they decided to turn their woodworking hobbies into a career and started Karben Wood. Alongside their dogs, Henry and Lola, they produce and finish every piece by hand here in their Toronto shop.
As a small-batch furniture company committed to sustainability, Karben Wood believes furniture should not be disposable. Each piece is designed and built for longevity. Their founding collection features two pieces, the Georgia chair and the Anni bench. Made from solid ash in a timeless style that borrows from Windsor and Wegner, these pieces are ready to join the story of your home.
I’m thrilled to see this duo apply their talent and attention to Karben Wood. It’s wonderful to see more thoughtful woodworkers join Toronto’s small-batch furniture makers. Lia and David, we’re excited to watch your business unfold!
Q & A with
What three words best describe your work?
Clean, modern, thoughtful.
What’s your favourite part of the creative process?
My favorite part of the creative process is the moment after assembling a piece. Suddenly this thing that was just an idea, a sketch and some pieces of wood becomes a three dimensional, tangible object. It’s amazing. It can stand on its own and almost speak for itself. I’m always surprised and delighted in this moment. Of course, after assembly there is still a lot of work shaping, sanding and finishing before the piece really shines, but all the potential reveals itself at assembly.
What are you curious or excited about right now?
I’m excited that there is such a big community supporting local craft and the small economy right now. It’s amazing to see people furnishing their lives with carefully chosen objects, buying less, buying from within their community, and supporting makers. In turn, there are so many incredibly talented makers emerging. People (like me) who have been able to get out from behind desks to create work that they’re really proud of.
“It’s amazing to see people furnishing their lives with carefully chosen objects, buying less, buying from within their community, and supporting makers.”
— Karben Wood
Why are you drawn to making furniture? I always wonder if something like this starts from an interest in woodworking that you decide to take into furniture or an interest in furniture which feels best expressed through woodworking.
My route to woodworking and furniture making was a bit of a circle. As a kid there were always woodshops around. My dad and both of my grandfathers had shops in their basements so I grew up around tools and sawdust. I studied interior design in university but made a point of choosing a program that had its own woodshop. I worked for several years in commercial interior design but I was always more interested in working with my hands.
I explored lots of avenues before landing on furniture making as a full-time career. I worked part-time in a flower shop, I took pottery classes, I got a floor loom and learned to weave (something I still do), I looked into several masters programs design related, textile related… but eventually, I found my way back to the shop.
It wasn’t that I always knew I wanted to be a furniture maker. I always knew that I wanted to make things. Furniture was a particularly interesting design challenge and wood is a particularly appealing material. The perfect mix of design and making.
I love how on your website you explain that “a well-designed piece of furniture can serve as a foundation for a lifetime of precious moments.” I’m curious to know, what’s your favourite piece of furniture that you have in your home and why?
In my home, my favorite piece of furniture is an Eames LCM molded plywood lounge chair. It’s not my favorite because it’s an iconic chair or because it’s a great design (it is both those things). It’s my favorite because my Opa gave it to me. That alone would have been enough but when he gave it to me he also told me it’s story.
My Opa worked as a doctor but he was always fascinated by interior design. In 1953 there was a severe polio outbreak in Manitoba. He spent the summer working a second job as a night nurse tending to patients in the “iron lungs”. Despite the fact that he was starting his new family and this likely wasn’t the most sensible purchase, his first wages went to pay for this dream chair. It was in his house my whole life, it is well worn and the official certification sticker is long gone but it has been loved and lived in for more than sixty years, in his house and now in mine.