The Origins of My First Decorative Coffee Table Ideas
I’ve always loved building and woodworking, but as a sculptor, it remained a side interest. My hands were full sculpting with clay, wood, and stone.
When my neighbor gave me an old sawmill blade in the early ’90s, I never envisioned it as a catalyst for making my first decorative coffee table.
Or, as the beginning of a lifelong adventure in metal art.
Nevertheless, as I gazed at that round and rusty canvas, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
Back in the studio, after drawing a design I called ‘Circle of Fire,’ I tried to grind the hardened steel in relief,
Then I tried adding fused brass for contrast. That, too, failed miserably.
Or so it seemed…
When I noticed the heat colors on the hot bare steel, everything came together, and I was hooked.
Since then, most of my heat colored saw blade engravings have been circular designs, a carryover from my pottery training.
Which means you can enjoy viewing them from any direction.
Lighting is everything when it comes to displaying heat-colored steel engravings. That’s the beauty of them. Variations in lighting at different times of the day and in different seasons bring out their full range of characters.
So what does this have to do with decorative coffee tables?
I’m not sure how many engraved sawmill blades I made before realizing I could use heat-colored steel engravings for decorating coffee table tops.
When I did the heat coloring back then, I always had the steel flat on a soapstone and steel table, and they looked awesome the way the light struck them, particularly on overcast days.
My first decorative table’s design was ‘Early Risers,’ a heat-colored steel engraving depicting a farmer plowing with his horse and dog in the early morning moonlight.
Sadly, that first round decorative coffee table faired poorly, along with several pieces of my sculpture and metal wall art when the collector’s home burned.
Happily, an artist’s proof of Ranja’s limited edition ‘Horse and Boy’ bronze survived to be re-patinaed.
I often make my heat-colored steel engravings in small limited editions, and the second version of ‘Early Risers’ still graces a decorative coffee table for a living room in a North Carolina mountain home not far from my old studio.
…and as I write, the third hangs patiently in The Dean Gallery, waiting for a new home as metal wall art or as a decorative coffee table.
Other Decorative Coffee Tables
Not all of my metal art tables have featured sawmill blades. The first decorative coffee table I made after returning to Alaska in 2000 was for a client in Fairbanks.
I made the table legs and frame from locally sourced birch. The decorative tabletop features a circular design inspired by an idea that celebrates Denali National Park’s diversity.
The moveable coasters represent the tracks of the animals depicted in the coffee table top metal art.
• Denali Table
"My family and I have enjoyed the beautiful creativity of Jeff Dean's artistic production in our home for nearly 20 years. This has been in the form of the "Denali Table" which depicts various Alaskan wildlife pictured on iron set over a gorgeous wood table with metal coasters set around the table's periphery depicting the "foot prints" of all the pictured wildlife. This piece has been the topic of so many joyful conversations and memories and truly has forged lifetime memories for so many. I value this piece more than any other work of art in our home. My family and I have come to treasure this work not only for its beauty but for what it has evolved over time to represent in our Alaskan home. Thank you so much Jeff for sharing your gift with all of us!"
A Wooden Wall Sculpture Inadvertently Provides New Decorative Table Ideas
One of my first sizeable wooden wall sculptures was ‘Mountain Man with Raven.’
I searched the mountain roads for a dead cherry tree, which I cut and slabbed into numerous forked boards from which to make it. But that’s another story all its own.
• Mountain Man w/ Raven"I met Jeff at Art in the Park in Blowing Rock. He had an impressive portfolio, and as I'd recently built a new home in Linville, I asked him to design a wall sculpture for the tall stone fireplace. He came by the house, and after discussing themes and commenting on the beautiful masonry job, he came up with a design that complimented the stone work rather than hiding it. It is a beautiful piece and was a special part of the house. I enjoyed it for many years, and now, 20 plus years later, the family that currently owns the house comments on it often."
Suffice it to say, that commission was why I had the two flitch-cut boards that determined the design for my next decorative table project, a dining room table.
An Artistic Dining Table
When we settled in Homer in 2001, one of the first timber frame buildings we built was the workshop.
The design for the arching hammer-beam trusses was inspired by a blacksmith shop built by master timber framer, Ed Levin.
It still had plastic sheeting for walls when I made ‘Salmon Stream Table’ using those boards. Good lighting; poor insulation.
My proposal included a design for a birch and steel table frame. Still, the client decided to build the frame themself for budgetary reasons.
In the end, their folding table ‘stand-in’ ended up being ‘not so temporary.’
Years later, I acquired that tabletop from the estate. I’ve refinished it and have it available for sale. Although the original owner used it as a dining table, my plan is to make cherry coffee table legs for it.
It will be perfect in a lodge or a great room.
It’s still one of my favorites. I can turn it into a coffee table for the living room or a dining table to suit unless the new owner prefers to display it as wood and metal wall art.
Years later, I made a similar piece for Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna, AK.
A Decorative Coffee Table for a Fishing Lodge
Most recently, I made a decorative coffee table for a fishing lodge in the Bristol Bay area. The owner of Bear Trail Lodge wasn’t sure what kind of art she could use.
She had a beautiful Bristol Bay Area lodge with a comfortable great room to gather and unwind after a day fishing on the water.
I worked with her to create an artistic coffee table as a focal point for the room in the form of a long, decorative oval coffee table that resonated with her whole lodge experience.
The decoration on the engraved steel top shows a satisfied brown bear ambling dreamily along the banks of a well-stocked salmon stream.
I designed the decorative magazine rack with ribs shaped like salmon bones drying in the sun.
"It felt like it belonged the minute I unpacked it and incorporated it into my lodge. "• Bear Trail Lodge Table "Working with Creative Fires Studio was a great experience! I was uncertain as to the type of piece I wanted, Jeff worked with me to create something that was perfect for my lodge. The coffee table was designed around things that were important to the lodge experience I offer, it felt like it belonged the minute I unpacked it and incorporated it into my lodge. There have been so many expressions of appreciation since it arrived; a true heirloom piece."
New Design Ideas, New Possibilities for Decorative Tables
If you’re looking around to come up with decor for coffee table ideas, consider commissioning a decorative table as a way to incorporate artwork into your remodeling or construction projects by weaving art into an existing furniture budget.
This way, instead of coming up with coffee table centerpiece ideas, you can make the table itself be the focal point and centerpiece.
I have many design ideas that are perfect for decorative tabletops. And along with a selection of lumber, I have more of those forked cherry boards to incorporate into table ideas if a cherry coffee table would fit your interior design.
I love making custom artwork and the synergy between your aesthetic vision and my experience and artistic sensibility.
The end result is something neither of us might have imagined on our own.
As a starting point, here are a few of my available design ideas for decorative living room coffee tables.
But the sky is the limit so let me know what your project is calling out for.
The Next Step
I’d love to hear about your project. Or maybe you know of someone else who is looking for a custom designed table.
Give me a call or send me an email to discuss your decorative table ideas or any other type of artwork for your project.