WE’VE ALL HEARD about that eager-beaver woodchuck who absolutely would chuck all the wood, if he could.
Good thing he couldn’t. Because here’s how much wood architect Roger Wallace needed for the contemporary, distinctly curvy home he designed for himself in Lake Forest Park — naturally, among some seriously towering trees: “I’d say a lot,” he replies matter-of-factly, when asked (you have to ask). And then, when you ask Wallace to please point out all the species, he leads a masterly factful class on wood, art history, geography, craftsmanship, even spelling … and truly thoughtful design.
That destructive woodchuck probably should point his pointy little teeth elsewhere.
Here’s what’s in the majestic upper-level great room (just the great room) of Wallace’s home: The walls are Waterfall Bubinga, from Africa. (Originally, that is. Wallace got his from Edensaw Woods in Tacoma. “I just always wanted to try Waterfall Bubinga because I’ve always been surprised to see — even in Architectural Digest — the wood is always kind of disappointing. I’m like, ‘Why aren’t people making beautiful rooms out of Waterfall Bubinga?’ I don’t get it. It’s really not that pricey.”) The floor: curly cherry, from Maine. The sofas and chairs Wallace designed as a graduate student — and then ended up building, with his carpenter friend Brian Gregory — are Paldao (from Indonesia and New Guinea), with African Zerbrawood trim. The ottomans at the feet of the two shiny Eames Lounge chairs are of Santos Palisander, from South America. The legs of the stunning dining table are African mahogany, with midcentury chairs in rosewood. Cabinets by Ross Day are Jatoba, from South America, and Western Tiger maple, with smaller accessories in walnut burl and teak.
And tying it all together, all through the house: “just a normal cherry,” says Wallace. “The base, the trim, the door openings, the cased openings, all the window surrounds. That’s kind of the binder. It’s a very medium-toned wood. It’s not a real red, and that allows me to play off the other exotic woods and kind of neutralize them.”
So yes. That’s a lot of wood — and a lot of kinds of wood. There are more.
“If the rule is you don’t mix wood, this home breaks that many, many times,” Wallace says. “There’s probably some species of wood I missed, but I don’t know what it is.”
Wallace would know. All things wood — its uses, its variations, its feel, its very nature — have been ingrained in him since childhood.
“My father worked for a timber company in Portland, and he’d bring home little samples of fir or cedar, so we’d make stupid things out of them,” Wallace says. “I remember as a kid, the company had a little patch of redwood, and they’d make these really beautiful redwood doors, and I remember when he brought home a sample, he said, ‘This is redwood.’ I don’t know if I knew what that meant, but I knew that suddenly there was a hierarchy, and some are special. That had an influence, because from 5 or 6, I would notice, ‘Ooh. This is a special wood.’ And so it’s something I’ve always worked with as an architect.”
It’s also something he’s collected and, clearly, studied.
The impressive custom African mahogany door (crafted by Gregory) opens to an elegant, purposely narrow entry, with walls of Sapele, an African wood. A signed Art Nouveau mahogany table by Émile Gallé stands near solid rosewood deck chairs “from some steamer ship,” Wallace says. “My family was quite poor, so sometimes I come down here with a glass of Champagne and sit in the 1930s deck chairs that very wealthy people were going to Europe in and remember my grandparents. Both sides were poor, and they put me in a position to have these. And so I just kind of remember with thankfulness.”
Hidden doors lead to a garage on one side and a vestibule on the other, which holds an 1820 French armoire of Caribbean mahogany (“my Ikea coat closet,” Wallace jokes). Doors lead to “exactly matching” bedrooms on each side of the vestibule; they’re connected by a Jack-and-Jill bathroom, and all are populated with wood pieces with some serious history behind them: a hand-carved, refinished solid mahogany wall hanging from an 1872 mansion; a solid rosewood vanity, from about 1820; an intricate walnut carving with dragons from the 1870s-’80s.
Back in the entry, curly cherry-topped stainless steel treads lead to a polished granite landing. “Through the house, you go from this polished black to this exotic wood to polished black,” Wallace says. “So there’s this checkerboard pattern.”
Midway up the stairs, Wallace displays a collection of “Kashigata, a Japanese hand-carved craft,” he says. “I view them as little mini works of art, and I just started collecting them. I just love them because they’re wood and they’re carved.”
Actually, Wallace’s entire home is a collected exhibition of wood, and wonder. And it is all hands-on.
“I want people to touch this wood,” Wallace says. “This is not a museum. This is a home, and I’d like them to experience it. In fact, this Émile Gallé — he’s a pretty famous guy, but I want them to run their hands [over it] because it’s part of the experience with wood.”
And what an experience it is. This wood is revered, and revelatory. There will be no chucking.