ABOVE The Strawbridge family gathers around the heirloom-quality, oak Huston & Co. kitchen table in their former South Portland home.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY MEREDITH PERDUE
When Liz and Stew Strawbridge, of South Portland, began searching for a kitchen table, they were after more than just a piece of furniture. They wanted a cozy, welcoming place to connect with their three kids and gather with friends, and a center of gravity where everything from birthday celebrations to important family discussions could unfold.
“We realized the table would be the keystone of our children’s family memories, and probably the most important piece of furniture in our house,” Liz says. They envisioned something with the warmth of reclaimed barnwood and the spaciousness and height of an architect’s drafting desk, allowing for a crowd and a relaxed feel. A taller surface, they believed, would be “more inviting to use casually, to rest a cup of coffee on, without committing to sitting down for an extended period,” Liz says. After scouring online retailers, furniture showrooms, and flea markets to no avail, they asked Kennebunkport’s Huston & Company to custom-build a table for them.
Bill Huston, who founded the company in 1988, is seeing increasingly more clients like the Strawbridges, who want pieces tailored to their needs and built to last for future generations. “People are moving away from products that you throw away after a few years and realizing there’s a real value that comes from having a table made the way you want,” says Bill, who works alongside his son, designer and workshop manager Saer.
Ready to create your own heirloom? Start with one of Huston & Company’s signature designs.
The company’s most popular model centers on a pedestal base with elegant, sweeping curves. The 1¼-inch-thick surface is significantly thicker than a traditional tabletop, lending a satisfying heft.
Huston’s version of a classic Shaker design, this expandable style is ideal for tight or oddly shaped spaces. The leaves are attached by rounded “rule joints” that hide the hinges below. Some clients incorporate drawers for silverware and placemats.
A band of raw steel runs through the top and down the legs of this trestle table, conceived in collaboration with Portland designer Tyler Karu. The supports may be moved in 15 inches to allow for seating at the ends of the table.
This streamlined take on a farmhouse table features a broad overhang and delicate, accordion-like designs setting off the apron from the tapered legs. Such “simple, unique elements do not cause excessive attention, but create overall subtle elegance,” Bill Huston says, and are a hallmark of the craftsmanship the company prides itself on.
People are also realizing that the custom-design process is not as complicated as it sounds. Most clients select from one of Huston & Co.’s 100 signature designs (including 17 dining tables) and modify the size, shape, finish, and wood. After initial discussions about concept and materials, the Hustons develop sketches and collaborate with clients on a final design. It then takes eight to 12 weeks to handcraft the piece — same as the standard turnaround for furniture ordered from a catalog or website. (Unlike web orders: clients receive photos of their pieces in progress and are invited to stop by the workshop for an in-person peek.)
“I didn’t know anything about tables, but I shared the feeling that I wanted to capture and the aesthetic and functionality I was hoping for,” Liz says. “Saer listened and drew up designs that perfectly matched what I desired.” At four feet wide, the Strawbridges’ table is about a foot broader than a typical dining table and stands at counter height — about 36 inches — so it’s comfortable for leaning, chopping, and sitting. A rift-sawn white-oak surface evokes the rustic look the couple sought, tempered with an industrial metal base.
When the family moved last year, the dining table was one of the few furnishings they took with them. “I imagine our grandchildren eating together at the table one day,” Liz says.