Instrument is a digital creative company from Portland that builds things. What exactly does that mean? you ask… well, it’s probably better if you just go to their website instead of me trying to explain. They’re really nice people who I’ve had the pleasure of working with in the past – I’ve built bookshelves, credenzas, a bar counter, and floating shelves for their office space. They are located in the Bison building – a massive structure that was built in 1941 to handle the World War II industrial boom. Portland was making a war ship a day and the Bison Building was in a neighborhood that built ship parts and assemblies. I don’t know for sure, but from the looks of it, the Instrument space has 30 foot ceilings. They also have a really cool beam crane overhead and some teepees constructed from reclaimed materials made by Mark Warren Jacques. They’ve got a lot of beautiful, raw, industrial space. And they realized that in their entryway, they needed a reception desk.
Our initial conversation led us to talking about reclaimed wood. They’ve got the aforementioned teepees and their entryway is clad in timber. Reclaimed wood accent walls can look pretty cool. I wanted to do something special. I wanted to push the simple reclaimed wall a bit. I wanted the look of organized chaos — with layers of different species of wood at different depths, widths, and heights.
So – we started with a simple “L” shaped design to hug the receptionist. The outside walls angle at 12.5 degrees up and out. You can walk right up to the desk and talk to the receptionist and not bump your feet. It gives it a comforting effect – the shape is simple, but infers a nest or a ship. One side of the desk is taller – the side facing the entryway – both to hide clutter and create flow from the giant open expanse beyond the desk to the entryway.
First, we built the core. The core was ugly – plywood ribs, sheathed in more plywood. It was just a skeleton to hold the facing and to attach the cabinets to. But – it was essential that it could split in two so it could fit in sections through a standard door. We bolted the two sections together.
Then along came that pile of scrap wood I mentioned before…. I’ve got quite a few friends who are woodworkers. Instead of building your average douglas fir reclaimed barnwood face, I went around and visited a few shops. And every woodworker in the world has a pile of scraps that is soon to become firewood. Cool looking firewood. That’s where most of the face came from. That with a dash of reclaimed fir from the Rebuilding Center. I put a 12.5 degree angle on the backside of that entire pile of scraps, then went wild with construction adhesive, nails, and screws. I had to keep that seam between the two pieces in mind though… I made a very discombobulated finger joint amongst the madness of scraps.
On the receptionist side, there are a couple of drawers and some adjustable open shelving. The counter and desk parts are finished with white Osmo. I can’t recommend Osmo enough. It’s an oil and wax based finish with a satin sheen that feels sooo smooth. And a whitewash on maple looks exceptional. I copied the 12.5 degree bevel on the edge of the counter pieces for continuity.
Now Instrument has a reception desk.
The last six photos are by photographer Armeen Monahan