Can we talk about the dining room table for a minute? You know, the place where your family tackles the hard stuff, the heart stuff, and finds love and laughter while sharing a meal. Some of the most mundane and amazing things happen at the kitchen table, or in the breakfast nook, or out at the picnic table in the backyard. Tables play a huge role in our lives, from the memories of everyday lunches to holiday meals made with love and care. It’s strange and unexpected, but you’ll be connected to your dining room table in odd ways; it’s the place where your grandpa sat and prayed over your holiday meal for the last time, and the spot where your littlest sat in a big boy/girl chair for the first time. They’re strangely hard to part with when they were the place your family made memories like: “Do you remember that time Mom burned dinner and Dad ate it anyway, because Mom was having a bad day, but we threw our food under the table?” Or, “remember that time we laughed so hard at that game we were playing that we were in tears?” Or maybe it’s the table that held you up as you took some quiet time and drank your coffee after a sleepless night with your baby. Or where you taught your children to do multiplication and read their first book, or dissect a frog. Or where you celebrated countless birthdays and completed hundreds of crafts.
Are we romanticizing the family table? Yes, yes we are. Because it matters. We’ve become a throw away society in so many ways. Throwing away these little moments believing the big ones are what matter most. From fast fashion to fast furniture we’ve found ourselves drowning in possessions that don’t mean anything. That hold no emotional, sentimental, soul-rich meaning. Throw-away culture means things like clothes and furniture, even appliances and toys, are made to sell, but not made to last. Filling our landfills and wasting our hard earned money. The trust between consumer and maker is lost when we’re being scolded over gas consumption, meanwhile cheap, poorly made products are being shipped from China. But don’t get us started on that. The point is, local is best and we all know it.
What’s more, where we spend our money matters now more than ever — especially in terms of environmental and social impact. Reserving our hard-earned money and viewing purchases as financial investments into the things we buy starts with finding well-made, meaningful, beautifully crafted items that will become a part of our lives and grow with us—maybe even be passed down from generation to generation.
Enter Outside the Box Tables
Let us romanticize the couple behind this business, David and Kelley. They met in 2009 while working in a restaurant. From the very beginning of their friendship, they talked about working together one day. On their first Valentine’s Day, David gave Kelley a new tool belt and tools. Not the most conventional gift, but it kicked off the romance of their future and dreams together. Who knew a hammer could be a symbol of romance? But for David and Kelley it was—and they still have that hammer! As the years went on they eventually settled in Gig Harbor, Washington and used the studio of David’s brother to start their woodworking journey.
Since then, they have made tables for many families and businesses, finding a sweet, personal connection to each client. Every piece of wood is carefully chosen, every tabletop and piece of joinery is studiously crafted, and every table gets a name unique to it.
“From the first meeting to delivery, we get to spend some time with every family, couple or client. The portfolio name and story usually have something to do with a conversation we had with our clients. Many things inspire the name: like a phrase they used, relating to their careers, or how it functions at home. We end up talking about so much more than just specifics of their table, oftentimes we talk about life. That connection we have with clients is an essential part of our business. Well before we had any portfolio to show, we learned that people noticed our passion and were going to buy into us as much as they were buying into their custom order. They love that David and Kelley will be building their table. There aren’t salespeople in the front and workers in the back here. Our clients end up having a connection to our whole family too. Since we had our son – we’ve had many clients excited to see him again at delivery. Over the years, there have been many occasions where we have been treated to tasty appetizers or a wonderful dinner at the dining table we just delivered.” – Kelley
It’s All in the Memories
Let’s keep the romance going. The care and thoughtfulness that goes into having something ethically sourced and intentionally made—a one of a kind table handcrafted just for you, your family, your style and needs—by people who believe in their work is about memories. David and Kelley reminisce about the thousands of tables they’ve built over the years, especially during the holidays. Picturing families gathered around their dining tables, relaxing in a post-Thanksgiving meal coma in living rooms surrounded by their tables, or coming and going greeted by their entry tables. Their tables are well loved and designed to be passed down. So much so, that David and Kelley have even had a couple put them in their will to receive their table after they pass. (Now that’s romance.) Every piece of furniture that they deliver is intentionally made to last for generations. One client bought herself a table as an 84th birthday present with the full intention of leaving it to her daughter.
“Our philosophy from the beginning was to do things differently than what we saw on some other tables. We knew right away that we wanted to build tables that were not only pretty, but heirloom quality. Rather than using screws that can strip out, we use metal inserts and specialty bolts so legs can go off and on as many times as needed. Glue drips or pencil marks are never left behind, even in an area that people won’t see. We take pride in knowing the underside of the table is finished to be just as nice as the top.” – Kelley
Let’s say that again—their work is about memories. Memories of their clients and for their clients. David and Kelley hand deliver their tables locally and cross-country, coupling their deliveries with family trips making their own family memories visiting places like the San Juan Islands and Mt. Rushmore. They’ve been invited to stay after deliveries for dinner or appetizers, and have enjoyed hearing the varied and very personal reasons for an order—from using a piece of wood from the client’s own property, to retirement gifts or an individual’s first “real” piece of furniture as an adult.
“Many times, these tables are for a new home or post-remodel. We see both sides of the spectrum too, like empty nesters needing a new table (since they gave away their current one to a grown kid) and young couples that are now ready for the family table.” – Kelley
The end product is always one that’s meant to last. Outside the Box designs tables specifically for each client, taking on the responsibility of crafting a piece of furniture that will be the centerpiece for a lot of life. In terms of decorating with purpose, a table is a great place to start. And buying from makers like David and Kelley means your dollars are not just going towards meaningful beautification of your home, but also supporting an American Dream.
3 Questions with Kelley at Outside the Box Handcrafted Tables
Has anyone given you a piece of sentimental material that came from a family barn, part of a family home, or tree to use in creating something new – honoring their heritage, their family story, memories, legacy or location/setting?
We had a family come in many years ago. Our client was given a little inheritance from her grandmother. She had been saving that nest egg for something special. She wanted to make sure it didn’t just go to bills or something disposable. When we delivered the new table set, the portion that grandma had set aside for her helped pay for the table. Everyday they’re able to remember and thank grandma for her contribution to their family table and memories made there.
People ask if we are sad to see the tables go once they are ready for delivery. Our answer is no, because the whole time we have been making this table for people we know. It is the style they love, in wood they wanted, with their favorite epoxy color and leg design. The exciting part is seeing it come to life and go home to ultimately be used and enjoyed.
Fast Furniture/mass produced furniture is not built to last and clogs our landfills. Can you share about the benefits of buying custom furniture, the quality and staying power of your classic, custom, heirloom quality designs?
Our clientele isn’t looking to buy these tables on a whim or will be replacing them in a couple years. They are looking for handcrafted furniture that will stand the test of time, even if their décor changes or if they move into a new house. Many of our tables were bought with the intention that they will be a part of their home for many years and be passed down in time.
We spend a lot of time working with clients to find out what they want and need in a table, as well as the look they love. We explain the characteristics of each wood species, sizing aspects and how styles work well for function. We are not designers and don’t want to tell people what to choose, instead we show and talk about the options. Our common saying is “when you see it, you’ll know.” We love that a-ha moment in the shop when a couple agrees on their favorite wood and leg style. We point out the small things, that make a table functional too. Many clients love how we show them leg styles that allow space to tuck in a chair or won’t knock your knees.
One of the best things about custom furniture is that we can build it in any size. The dimensions are what makes sense for the space. We’re often asked what the standard size for a table is. We explain that while we do see common sizes, we are not limited to just a typical size and can make a table fit any room or seating arrangement.
It’s not just the quality of the product, but the faces behind the business. Tell us about who you are. What makes your business special and unique? How and why did you start making tables?
David’s brother was working at a shop doing wood carvings here. By helping him with his business, we had time in the shop to use tools and David taught himself woodworking. One the first few things he made, was a neat little end table out of live edge Maple. When a person came in and wanted to buy it immediately, we knew that we were onto something great. It was clear from the beginning that he had a great mind to build structurally sound and high-quality pieces. Together, we were always envisioning new and creative table designs. We wanted to feature the natural beauty of the wood but think outside the box to make something completely unique. During that time in 2011, we built furniture from slabs that we personally salvaged, repurposed hardwood flooring and hand-me-down reclaimed wood. Every piece was a true one-of-a-kind, like it still is today.
This business has been our whole life since 2011. Growing up in our shop, our son has an excellent understanding of what his parents do for a living. He sees things transform daily from raw wood coming in, to finished tables going out and all the hard work in between. Every day, as I drive our son to school, he video-calls David who is already working in our shop. The first thing he says is “What are you working on today, Dad?” Just as our tables become an important part of our clients’ life, they are an important part of ours too.
Outside The Box Handcrafted Tables describes our specialty better, although Outside The Box Woodworking, Inc. is our official name. We use them synonymously. The vast majority of what we build are tables and some dining benches with the tables. We specialize in residential furniture: kitchen and dining tables, coffee & end tables, entry & console tables, and desks. We mainly deliver to local Washington state clients, but we also ship nationwide. We’ve been known to deliver tables across the US too! We have upcoming deliveries to Southern California and Montana. As much as it is a business trip, we get to make it a family adventure too.