Live Edge Design’s Stephanie Farrow creates wooden works of art

Duncan company transforms clients’ visions into finished wood products

  • Apr. 10, 2019 8:00 a.m.

– Story by Sean McIntyre Photography by Don Denton

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

Slabs of immaculately hewn maple, walnut and arbutus await delivery in the loading bay at Duncan’s Live Edge Design. Nearby, contemporary, resin-infused countertops are contrasted with the clean simplicity of a rustic dinning room table. All are works of art that infuse an otherwise nondescript industrial park with a sense of magic that lures visitors to ponder the inspiration and skilled craftsmanship at the heart of each piece.

“No tree is firewood in our eyes,” says designer Stephanie Farrow. “No two pieces are the same, and I love working with the challenges of each piece.”

Stephanie says it isn’t uncommon for projects like these to start as a vague idea concealed in someone’s mind or as a rudimentary napkin sketch. The exciting part of her work, Stephanie says, is helping clients transform their visions into the finished products that will occupy honoured places in homes and workplaces.

Part of her job at Live Edge involves touring visitors and potential clients through the company’s site. Each tour starts outside near the mill. Participants stand surrounded by 12-foot long slabs of maple, solid cubes of wood milled from massive roots and gnarly wooden hulks whose origins stir the imagination. Along a wall are uniformly cut lengths of alder, a common species found across Vancouver Island, are laid out to dry along a low shelf. They’re destined to fuel a surging demand for woodsy bed frames, chairs and coffee tables.

There’s no missing the remnants of a 200-year-old maple tree, though one could be forgiven for questioning if the truck-sized mass could possibly have come from a single tree. The tree’s massive bulk was hauled out of a peat bog in a farmer’s field near Chemainus last year.

“The biggest crane they could find on the island wasn’t big enough,” Stephanie says.

The farmer, who’d grown attached to his tree over the decades, visited Live Edge Design to determine what could be done with the big old maple now that it had become a hazard and required removal. That’s when the farmer learned about oneTree, a bi-annual exhibit conceived in part by Live Edge president John Lore and the Bateman Foundation. Every two years, craftspeople submit concepts utilizing material from a single tree. The resulting exhibit is intended to highlight a variety of works that share a common origin.

“These works are from the same tree so you can see the grain running through all of the pieces. It will become a really great memorial for this special tree,” Stephanie says of the upcoming oneTree show set for November 2019.

An impressive portion of the wood held in the Live Edge yard originates from a single client who Farrow has worked with since she joined the company in early 2018.

When the Cowichan Valley family realized they had to remove two large maple trees on their property for safety reasons, they visited Live Edge to get some ideas about ways to use the wood to complement their family home. The pair of towering trees produced 30 slabs, six cookies and a unique stump, offering Farrow plenty of material with which to exercise her creative might.

“To date we have used the majority of that but still have approximately 10 pieces left that we refer to as Round 2,” she says. “The design process was very involved. We had the spaces measured, and we tried to design the pieces that reflected the beautiful landscape around the space.”

A piece dubbed the “Horizon Headboards,” for example, reflects a view of the lake and mountains from the homeowners’ bedroom. In the games room, furnishings including the coffee table and end table are built from the same portion of the same tree, giving all the pieces in that space a similar grain, tone and pattern.

“You can actually see the flow in these pieces,” Stephanie says.

While the milled lumber dries in the yard and kiln for up to eight months, Stephanie is hard at work indoors bringing ideas to life. Images of the raw materials are uploaded to Photoshop, where different permutations are laid out for clients to consider. The work may be undertaken with a mouse and keyboard, but the wood’s inherent character is what drives the creative process.

“You have to allow the wood to do more of the designing because you can’t force it to do something it’s not going to do,” she says. “Sometimes you’ll be working with something and discover it’s just not possible.”

Whereas ill-fated projects would have once been tossed to the scrap heap, the Photoshop age gives designers such as Stephanie an unprecedented degree of creative freedom and room to experiment. Being able to show a client how an idea will look and work has the added effect of bringing some of the more outlandish ideas closer to reality.

“With wood going in all sorts of different directions and the use of metals and glass, sometimes we need to test the physics of an idea beforehand,” she says. “We often have to send a video to show that it just isn’t possible.”

The end result, however, is always a work of art that stands as a source of pride for the client, designer and each of the craftspeople who contributed to the project. The essence of each project is ingrained in their collective memories long after a piece heads out the door for delivery. Stephanie says she always feels a strong sense of pride when she comes across a Live Edge piece in situ months or years after it was built.

“Wood has a grounding effect; it keeps spaces natural. Materials like stone and wood have a natural element that balance out the synthetic elements,” she says. “I fall in love with everything that comes out of here, and want to make sure they’re amazing for years to come if they have our name on it.”

Tours of the Live Edge facility are available year round Mondays through Saturdays at the company’s production and design facility south of Duncan at 5195 Mearns Road. For more details visit liveedgedesign.com. The oneTree runs from mid-November to mid-February at the Robert Bateman Centre in Victoria.

Just Posted

Coffee Morning raises money for Matthew’s House

Event in Abbotsford runs from April 29 to May 3

Loud jets are annoying Sumas residents, town’s mayor says

Flights out of Abbotsford airport turn over border town and annoy residents, Sumas mayor says

Fraser Valley Bandits hosting Player ID Camp

Camp occurs on Saturday at the University of the Fraser Valley

Farmland-for-industry plan not dead, Abbotsford mayor says

Council won’t ask ALC to reconsider their latest rejection of exclusion request

VIDEO: Fraser Valley Cardinals split home opener games

Junior varsity team battles Coquitlam, Victoria over the weekend

Easter bombings a response to New Zealand attacks, says Sri Lanka minister

The Islamic State group asserted it was responsible for the nine bombings

New commemorative loonie marking ‘progress’ for LGBTQ2 people to be unveiled today

But advocates say it mistakenly suggests equality has been achieved largely as a result of government actions

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Anti-SOGI activist slams ban on B.C. dad speaking out about transgender son’s case

A judge has told the father to stop publicly objecting to his son’s gender

PHOTOS: Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says ‘I do’ on Earth Day

May and John Kidder got married Monday morning in Victoria

Victims injured in Lower Mainland deck collapse ranged from 15 to 83 years old

Victim Services staff have reached out to those hurt and their families

‘Ghost restaurants’ cooked up by Joseph Richard Group to meet demand of delivered food

The new Meal Ticket Brands venture aims to ‘disrupt’ the local restaurant industry

Sri Lanka invokes war-time military powers after nearly 300 killed in Easter bombings

Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism says 39 foreign tourists were killed in the Easter Sunday attacks

Torched SUV linked to Vancouver’s fourth homicide

Manoj Kumar, 30, was found dead from gunshot wounds in the Kitsilano neighbourhood

Most Read