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Nick Tretiak Makes Furniture Out of Trees That Fall During Portland Storms

The beautiful furniture will still be here long after we’re all gone.

Nick Tretiak

Age: 35

What does he make? Beautiful furniture that'll still be here long after we're all gone.

In a city full of artists, furniture designer Nick Tretiak is a different breed of maker: the classically trained craftsman.

"I'm probably going to get in trouble for this, but I think Portland sometimes relies on being cheeky too much," Tretiak says of the local furniture-making scene. "So, nationally, it doesn't really get taken seriously."

Working in a tradition that runs through Shaker furniture, Scandinavian design, and the American Craft Movement, Tretiak uses domestic hardwoods to make furniture capable of lasting decades—or even centuries. Some of the trees he uses are harvested locally, most of them from arborist tree removals or storm falls.

Growing up in a family of makers—his father built the home Tretiak grew up in—Tretiak studied product design in college, but the desk-bound life didn't agree with him. While apprenticing under a traditional furniture maker, he picked up many of the techniques that inform his current work: old-school skills like mortise and tenon joinery, dovetail drawer construction, caning and using natural animal hide glue, which allows furniture to be repaired throughout its life. He even designs and makes his own brass hardware.

It's a process that produces heirloom-quality furniture like the Union Table, a deceptively complex side table with a heavily figured walnut top and slender brass legs—a precise balance achieved without using robot cutting equipment.

"I try to make both the construction and the design durable," he says modestly. "Making it easy to use is key."

FIND IT: tretiakworks.com

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