A. Thomas Walsh
‘Sleigh Endings’ Daybed
African khaya crotch veneer, solid mahogany base, hand-rubbed poly-oil finish, Stroheim and Romann tapestry upholstery
28″ deep x 86″ wide x 22″ high, 16″ seat height
I consider this award-winning design my signature piece. The design originated with a commission from a New York City client who was a fine art dealer and lived in a Park Avenue penthouse apartment.
My company had done much of the architectural millwork for the renovation of her space, and through our relationship I received a number of furniture commissions. One was a large, modern, ash burl dining table and another was a French walnut veneer Ruhlmann-style coffee table. The coffee table was designed to match two French Art Deco chairs she had purchased.
One day, after returning from Europe, my client described a daybed that she had admired in an antique dealer’s shop in Paris. She now wanted me to create a unique daybed for her. The design, which evolved from our conversation, merged the classic front curves of the Parisian sleigh daybed with the more minimal aesthetic of an Egyptian daybed I had in mind. The visual form was that of an open flower with a strong stem. To fulfill the client’s vision, the daybed was crafted to be large enough for “two people to lie together propped up on big pillows while reading the Sunday New York Times.” It was made with the same flitch of veneer used in the Ruhlmann coffee table and has a French polish finish with tufted upholstery.
The following year I wanted to refine the design and create a new version of the daybed for an upcoming show. I had some beautiful fabric left over from another commission and needed to find some great veneer. I paid a visit to my friend Ben Barrett at Berkshire Veneer. I asked to see something different and very special. He had a small quantity of a unique African khaya crotch veneer. It was unlike any crotch veneer I’d ever seen.
The artistic potential that veneer holds is unlimited and creatively stimulating. Like a painter’s palette, it offers endless possibilities, making it the ultimate material. A simple change in grain or imperfection can become a wondrous visual delight. And so, the stunning crotch veneer I discovered became the artistic focal point of the bed’s sleigh endings.
The graceful, curved sleigh endings were formed and veneered in a vacuum press. The book-matched top panels waterfall into the sides, which are done with regular khaya crotch veneer. A Stroheim and Romann tapestry fabric was used for the upholstery, which was done in a traditional manner with jute webbing, coil springs, and horse hair/cotton padding.
The daybed now resides in our home and is an important part of the living room décor. It commands attention when my wife and I entertain, but it is also quite comfortable for an afternoon snooze.