Making a lasting impression

Jul 15, 2019

Ross McGravie


As a bespoke furniture maker channelling the artisan craftsmen from the Renaissance, Simeon Dux lives in the hope his pieces may one day feature in a museum or gallery.

Using premium-quality and environmentally sustainable timber from the US and Australia, Simeon said the time-honoured joinery employed in his work created functional and aesthetically pleasing pieces that have been designed to suit a client's lifestyle.

"In my business it's really important to create pieces that look great from the outside, but also need to be strong enough to stand up for the next few generations,” Simeon said.

"Wood is a beautiful medium. You can do so many things with it. It's a beautiful product to look at, but it's also very easy to use. You can make things as simple or as difficult as you like.

"And if you're lucky enough to get five or six boards from the same tree, you can keep them together and get an even tone (aesthetically) for the piece. I've found if people put a lot of effort into not just the joinery and construction but also the design - so that what people are looking at is something that's beautiful and exciting to see - it will endure and not just be something that will phase itself out within a decade or two.”

Proud of creating heirloom pieces that can be passed down within families, Simeon began his transition from carpenter to craftsman under the guidance of Alastair Boell at the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking, learning new styles and techniques from master craftsmen from diverse backgrounds.

Armed with this rare knowledge and spoiled for choice with materials, Simeon says he uses different timbers according to the one-off creations he crafts. "As long as the designer has a good sense of how to use the wood, it's possible to build almost anything from timber,” Simeon said.

"Timbers of a medium density like an American walnut, cherry, white oak, and Australian variations like myrtle and blackwood are really nice to use. I tend to use American black walnut – it grows in abundance and is sustainably farmed specifically for furniture production and interior fit-outs.

"It's a chocolatey brown colour with really straight grain and beautiful figure. It's not too hard or too dense, but it's also really strong. There are a lot of other Australian hardwoods that are perfect for other applications, such as dining tables, posts and beams and floors, and they are much heavier and stronger. They look great when they're exposed, but they're not necessarily suitable for fine furniture.

"For me, we should always do justice to the timber. If that tree needs to be taken down, use it (in furniture) in a way that's respectful of the timber.”

Sustainability is important to generations of craftsmen and professionals. And when people bring a piece into their home or work place, like the pieces that Simeon creates, they are also connecting with nature and helping to protect the environment. People should think of wood as a renewable resource, just like wind farms and solar panels.

In terms of maintenance, Simeon says heat and water should be avoided at all costs on his creations, and coasters should be used to avoid stains. He says it's important to avoid placing the furniture in direct sunlight, especially on hot days.

"All timber is going to change depending on the amount of UV light it is exposed to – fluorescent light or direct sunlight may cause timber to fade a little or oxidise to become darker or lighter, depending on the species of the timber,” he said.

"It's definitely not a bad thing for it to see direct sunlight, but not on 40-degree days. It's probably best to keep it where it can get some nice raking light, accentuating texture.

"If the piece is finished with oil, re-applying that oil every year will help regenerate all that timber and grain that's visible. Even just a standard rub and buff with a beeswax each year is a great way to make the timber look like it's new again, while the lemon scent (in the wax) wafting through the home is another fantastic sensory experience.”

Not surprisingly, Simeon's home is filled with his creations.

"I've got plenty of good and bad things I've made at home – probably 15 pieces – and they bring a real warmth to the house. It looks great and feels great.

"When you're sitting there trying to zone out, you can look at a piece of furniture with nice grains flowing across it and get lost in the grain (as you would watching a fire).”

This feeling is part of the growing awareness of the importance of connecting our homes and workplaces with the natural world, called biophilic design. Planet Ark has completed a report - Wood – Nature Inspired Design — which outlines the importance of connecting buildings with the natural world. It demonstrates how with wood and biophilic design we can bring nature indoors and provide a healthier, happier environment for all. You can download the report here.

Simeon said the life of a furniture maker can present many challenges, but the satisfaction of producing an object of enduring beauty is what makes the labour of love worthwhile.

"For me, it's a passion,” he said. "All my pieces have a life-long warranty as a show of faith in the workmanship. It gives the client peace of mind knowing that if anything happens, I'm just a phone call away. That way they can pass it down to their kids and hopefully their kids' kids as well.

"After spending so long working on a piece, it's definitely sad to see it go. But you're also excited … to know that someone is going to be enjoying that piece you've poured your heart and soul into for many years to come.”