“Mae West” Side Table (2001)


When we found an eight-foot-long solid mahogany companionway ladder washed up on our beach, we knew immediately it had come from the sadly sunken motor yacht we’d christened “The Mae West” after her owner, the great Hollywood star from the 1920s and 30s. We washed it with fresh water, and as it dried out we put some serious thought into how we could continue its use in the form of furniture. We can’t recall now which idea came first, but one fairly obvious one was to create a bookshelf, with the ladder’s steps as shelves. We saw that the top three steps, if supported by some pieces of teak paneling we’d already rescued from the vessel, would make a perfect fit for our collection of Patrick O’Brian books and ephemera.

But what could the remaining section do for us? Eventually it dawned on us that if we cut it in half, and put the two pieces on their sides, back-to-back, we’d have a small table, with an interestingly sectioned lower shelf. Meanwhile (this entire creative process developed over many months), a four-foot piece of gently curved solid teak deck railing which had broken free from the yacht during a storm washed up. We saw we could cut two pieces to create ends for the tabletop that would cover the sawn edges. What remained was a piece about eight inches long. In one of many serendipitous moments in our furniture-design process, we realized we could cut it into four two-inch blocks that made perfect feet for our table and gave a visual balance to the design.

“The Mae West” is gone forever, but her story lives on in these two pieces, and a few others we’ll be featuring in future posts.



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