Larz Allen, metalsmith mastermind
by TruexCullins, June 3, 2011
The best projects are a result of creative collaboration. In our line of work, we are always looking for builders and craftspeople who bring their own talents and style to a project, working with us to come up with creative solutions.
Larz Allen is an artist in Jeffersonville, Vermont who creates furniture, sculpture, lighting fixtures, and architectural elements. While his original passion is working in metal, he now works in metal, wood and stone.
Our interiors studio had the pleasure of working with Larz on the interior fit-up of a timber-frame mountain home designed by architect Sam Scofield. Rebekah Bose was the lead interior designer on this project, which included: a custom metal staircase; two large metal chandeliers up to 60″ in diameter; and a fireplace with built-in copper-clad doors that open vertically with a pulley system, assisted by counterweights.Larz did a spectacular job creating all of these components. For the staircase, he fabricated a custom system of supports, stringer, treads and railing.
On his website, Larz describes his approach:
“With this stair system the desired effect was to harvest the natural light. The architect was enthusiastic about using the chandelier wheel material to support the stairs. This stock was particularly small. The stringer frame was bisected at each joint and all its fasteners were hidden. For treads we selected recycled Douglas fir with curly maple nosing. The railing system is blackened steel with a solid bronze hand cap; the steel and bronze had to be formed together, further increasing the challenge. The product proved to be stable, and we effectively harvested the natural light.”
The main feature of the Great Room is a massive stone fireplace with a mechanical fire gate that closes off the opening. Larz engineered a change to the design that provides counter weights to assist with lifting the heavy door, operable with a built-in crank handle set into the stone surround. He also fit up the fire screen with a similar pulley system. The doors are faced with annealed copper, in a design that mirrors the view of the mountain range beyond.
The man behind the magic is just as compelling as the products he creates. Here is photo of Larz Allen, coutesy of Seth Cashman, a portrait photographer from Manhattan:
Larz recently shared these photos with us of his latest project, a series of wood tables with sculptural metal bases, characterized by a pattern of distinctive bowtie fasteners set into the wood surface. The wood is from a 32″ diameter White Oak that was sliced and left to dry for 5 years. Larz took on the challenge of working with each slice in its widest form, with two “live” edges. Large boards such as these with two live edges have a natural tendency to cup. To accommodate this movement, Larz came up with a clever solution: “By forcing the wood flat, encouraging the cracks, and trapping the cracks with the bow-ties, I made the pieces usable while maintaining the two live edges. I fancy them as kite tails. The bow-ties always follow the crack.”
It is always rewarding to work with talented craftspeople like Larz who are willing to take these journeys with us. We may know where we want to end up, but sometimes it is only through creative teamwork that we figure out the best way to get there.