Our Tree House dining nook is finally complete! After more than two years of us plotting and planning to maximize the space, we have our custom banquette (built by us), and a custom dining table (not built by us)! This project all started when we made the tough decision to remove the massive Silver Maple that was diseased and dangling precariously over the house. Intending to make lemonade out of lemons, we had a few logs from a strong limb milled into slabs. After the slabs were stacked and dried naturally for nearly a year, we brought in our friends from Chicago-based Norman Leigh to turn raw wood into this magic:
It’s freaking stunning, right?! As a quick refresher, these next few photos show just how far this little corner has come:
Dining Nook | 2017
This is where we started …then this happened!
Dining Nook | Progress
Once the woodburning stove and the surrounding bricks were removed, the floors were refinished. Things looked like this for quite awhile as other projects took precedence.
Dining Nook | Today!
All the while, we were planning behind the scenes for this:
The Making of a Custom Table
George and Leigh-Anne, the team behind Norman Leigh, are not only super talented woodworkers, but great human beings that also happen to enjoy frosty beverages and s’mores around a bonfire (we confirmed this fact over a few hours after the table was delivered). They did a fantastic job on the table and were kind enough to document their work along the way!
To view the gallery below, use the prev/next arrows on the first image. You can also see their process on their dedicated Instagram highlight reel!
The Waiting Game
This project was one of patience, but the wait was well worth it! This is how the timeline shook out:
- June, 2018 | Silver Maple is cut down and a few large logs are saved in hopes of building this very table.
- September, 2018 | Logs are milled into 2″ slabs, stacked, covered and left to dry naturally.
- September, 2018 – May 2019 | We wait (somewhat impatiently) for slabs to dry. Meanwhile, planning and measuring for table and banquette commenced.
- May, 2019 | Norman Leigh visits to help select slabs for the table, and they take a van full off to the kiln!
- June, 2019 | Wood comes out of kiln, designs are finalized, table construction begins.
- July, 2019 | Table complete! Delivery to Tree House. Celebratory pizza, beer and s’mores ensue.
While patience isn’t always our strong suit, we knew this table would eventually change the way we spend our time with family and friends at Tree House. Finally having a large table that’s actually a pleasant place to eat, relax and play games has been an absolute game changer.
It’s All In the Details
Okay, but enough about our lack of patience! Let’s have a look at some of those details, which is what makes this table truly unique. For starters, the knot you see below ended up being softer than anyone imagined, and it blew completely out of the board as it went through the jointer. Leigh-Anne and George presented us with a couple of options and we all agreed that a clear resin fill would be our best bet. The resin-filled hole goes all the way through the top of the table and little Lucy loves looking up from below! It’s easily one of our favorite quirks:
Another ‘happy accident’ was that the boards were slightly more warped and twisted than anyone intended once they were fully dried from the kiln. As a result, we lost a few extra inches of length on a few of the pieces that would eventually make up the top. Leigh-Anne suggested that we utilize a ‘breadboard’ (the perpendicular board on each end of the table) to add length and structural rigidity. This also allowed the long end of the boards to be showcased for a cleaner look. We love how it turned out!
The breadboard on the kitchen end of the table also presented a great opportunity to show off more of the spalting (which is a highly sough-after wood fungus, oddly enough!) in the wood. Just look at that spalting, would ya?!
Adding Contrast with Steel
We knew from the beginning of the project that we wanted to integrate a black powder coated support to tie into the design of the new loft railing and existing counter stools. This round center support with ‘X’ ends was the perfect solution!
The Completed Dining Nook!
Now that the banquette and table are in place, we were able to finish outfitting the rest of the nook. After living for two years with a hand-me-down TV from my parents that alternated between balancing on an empty cardboard box and an old wood cabinet we found in our Chicago alley, it was time for an upgrade.
The Samsung Frame TV and its ability to display art when it’s not in use had been on our wish list for years, and the fact that we still lusted after it sealed the deal. The only challenge was that the ideal size for the room (somewhere around 50″) wasn’t offered – until the 2019 model year, that is! A 49″ version was released at the end of last year and it fills the space perfectly. We also added the customizable bezel in beige to further tie the look in with the rest of the room.
Dining Nook | Before
A slight challenge that had to be accounted for throughout the planning process was the angle of the loft ladder when in the down position. It’s incredibly handy that the ladder can be moved out of the way when not in use, but it did limit the depth of the table, and we had to take this into account with every measurement. This is how it looked while the work was in the planning stages:
Dining Nook | Today
And this is how it looks now! We love the proportions and the way the table fills the space. These backless stools helped us to maximize the width of the table, too.
It has been almost a year since our beloved silver maple came down, and now it’s been given a new life. This table will serve as the gathering hub for decades to come. We can’t wait until the edges soften with use and the surface shows signs of love and wear.
We can’t thank Norman Leigh enough for helping us see our vision through to this fantastic final product. It’s a truly special piece of furniture that helps to remind us why we bought this home in the first place – to gather with friends and family over food, drinks and laughs, surrounded by some of Michigan’s finest trees.