Makers use passion, skill, natural woods, and modern tools to create timeless furniture, floors, and art
Shayn Smith and Brian Card prep a glue-up for a round dining tabletop.
Photos by Josh Scott
Like the intricate pieces of their precision-cut, hand-installed marquetry flooring, the lives of Shayn Smith and Jeff Smith — same surname, but not related — were carved by unique experiences that fit perfectly together. The result was the formation of the duo’s wood furniture, flooring, and custom creation company, Smith-Made, in Shelby Township.
“Before we became friends, in 2014, we lived in ‘parallel universes,’ ” Shayn says with a laugh.
“Yes,” agrees Jeff. “We’ve both always worked with wood, artistically and functionally. We made similar career changes due to unexpected circumstances, and we’re both married to amazing women who’ve supported our determination, goals, and the challenges of having a business where we lovingly and painstakingly create such unique products.”
Some of the most popular items among those products are their handmade dining and conference tables.
“We take beautiful geometric shapes and images and, with the palettes of the different woods’ natural colors, we can inlay stunning designs, centerpiece art, even logos,” says Shayn, who, like Jeff, has studied and mastered a variety of marquetry and inlay techniques.
Brian Card places elevated zebrawood hexagons onto a piece of artwork. Jeff Smith applies his master skills.
“We like to be able to tell the client’s story with the piece, to create what is most meaningful to them,” Jeff adds.
Jeff and Shayn provide three-dimensional models of every project, including the entire room where the table, floor, or art piece will be placed.
“With our efforts for total communication and our visual tools, we’ve never had a client say about a finished project, ‘That’s not what I wanted,’ or, ‘That’s not what I thought it would look like,’ ” Jeff says.
“At our initial project meetings,” he continues, “we both pull different things from the client. Shayn is so great at design.”
“And Jeff,” Shayn says, “is great at functionality and practicality. For example, if we’re working on a custom storage piece, he’ll say, ‘Beautiful design, but where are you going to put your keys? Where’s the spot for the remote?’ ”
A coat of aniline dye is rubbed onto a piece of artwork. Shayn Smith continues the process. Once the parts are cut for an apple blossom marquetry piece, they are placed in hot sand to scorch the edges, which creates a shaded three-dimensional effect. The green and pink wood are a pressure-dyed koto; the whites of the petals are European sycamore; and the yellow stamens are figured movingui. A finished coffee and side table made of quarter-sawn wenge (dark) and masur birch burl (light), are quarter-matched to create an organic pattern.
One of their most challenging and rewarding custom pieces was a globe stand a local client wanted as a surprise gift for the 59th birthday of her husband, who travels the world for his job.
“Our passion drives everything,” Jeff says, “and every step of this project became an artistic adventure and a feat of combining Old-World craftsmanship with modern engineering.”
Through the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center, Shayn and Jeff found Autumn Bildson, an expert stone carver, who created the globe for their stand.
With African wenge wood, black-diamond plexiglass, dimmable LED lighting, and countless personalized, woodworked details including 59 steps — one for each year of his life — as part of the base, the finished globe stand exceeded their client’s expectations, and its unveiling happily overwhelmed her husband.
“We enjoy projects where we can push the limits and integrate steel, lighting, and plexiglass with the different woods,” Jeff says.
Shayn Smith programs geometric shapes on the laser for flooring. The laser cuts out shapes from quarter-sawn white oak.
“Sometimes we nudge people out of their comfort zone to consider something different, like our client who was glad they accepted our suggestion of inlaying mother-of-pearl in their custom dining table,” Shayn adds.
“We’re merging technologies with craftsmanship to be able to get our product out to more people,” Shayn continues. “Our tables and floors are created hands-on. They’re hand-assembled, not factory-made. Our custom tables start affordably at $4,500, and our products are repairable and refinishable, lasting, and timeless.”
“When they’re Smith-Made, they’re timeless enough for your kids to fight over,” Jeff says with a laugh.
More information: smith-made.com