George Nakashima Woodworker is a custom furniture company located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, owned by siblings Mira and Kevin Nakashima. Founded by their father, George Nakashima (1905-1990), in 1947, the nine-acre site served as a kind of laboratory for integrated living, testing George’s concepts of “decentralization, intermediate technology and living off the land” while synthesizing his varied experiences in the Pacific Northwest, Japan, and India, among other places. Today, it continues as an active woodworking studio as well as a heritage center preserving George’s legacy. It is, above all, an exceedingly serene place.
We were fortunate to visit on a day Mira was hosting a client and tagged along as they went through the careful process of selecting wood, a singular experience that probably best begins to distinguish the Nakashima studio. Divided among three buildings, the bulk of Nakashima’s wood collection is stored in an enormous barn-like warehouse where lumber is horizontally stacked in the boule form of the log. Here, there are slabs and lumber that date back to George’s early days in Bucks County, awaiting a project for which they’d be bested suited. Here, it’s easy to remember the “soul of the tree,” the elemental foundation that guides the studio’s operation.
It’s easy, too, to settle into the rhythm of the studio, especially shaded under the towering oaks from the late summer sun. Everywhere is the sound of work: the buzzing of saws, the sander’s squeal, the percussive thump of tools and machines that signal things are being made. And in the moments when work pauses, crickets — or are they cicadas? — while Mira’s young grandson swims in the pool at the forest’s edge. A day at Nakashima’s is a powerful testament to George’s legacy, that the work we do and why we do it is inseparable from how we do it. It’s a legacy worth preserving and one Mira both guards and extends by continuing to evolve the studio’s work in the spirit her father laid out.