For the month of November, the Reboli Center for Art and History in Stony Brook Village is showcasing the work of furniture designer and former Stony Brook resident Chris Miano.
Chris Miano is back home in Stony Brook, having grown up here until he went to the Parsons School of Design/The New School in Manhattan. As his family still lives here, he is a frequent visitor to the area, as well as The Reboli Center since he is an art collector and enthusiast.
As a young man, Chris became interested in carpentry when he started helping his father with construction projects around the house. He had no idea that all of that tinkering would result in a career as a furniture designer/woodworker as those lessons and projects led him to pursue a degree in Industrial Design.
After graduating Parsons, Chris started working for Allen Heller, who was his mentor at Parsons. “I learned a lot from him, but found myself itching to be back in an environment that built items instead of doing computer work. So, I found myself a job in a woodshop just to make sure that it was something I wanted to do full-time. I came across a studio in New Jersey that was looking for a furniture maker. I accepted and worked out a deal that I could use his studio after hours for building my own pieces,” said Chris. After canvassing businesses in the area where he lived, he was commissioned to do a project for Epicurious, building a photography surface. They were located in the World Trade Center and one of the chefs was opening a restaurant and was looking for someone to build the entire table top collection. “It was an opportunity I could not refuse so I created an LLC, found a vacant space and enlisted my father, uncle and co-worker to help me meet the deadline. I had four weeks to build over 70 pieces for the restaurant’s grand opening. I pulled all-nighters to complete the project and the rest is history,” added Chris.
While at Parsons, Chris had the opportunity to study at the Design Center in Copenhagen, which is the pinnacle of furniture design. His company, CAM Design Co., features tables, chairs, stools, mirrors, beds, chandeliers and other lighting fixtures. He is enamored by the traditional Japanese woodworking techniques and is influenced by the noted designer George Nakashima. For his creations, Chris favors such woods as American black walnut, red oak, white oak, maple and wormy maple. They are locally sourced. According to Chris, “My design process usually begins in one of my many sketchbooks or on a napkin in a restaurant. Once I am satisfied with a form, I get right to building. I typically plan out the construction process in my head. I prefer to do a prototype on a 1:1 scale to nail down the form. Then the piece is constructed. I’ll put oil on it or char it, depending on the finish I am looking to achieve. I like to put the emphasis on the natural characteristics of the material and allow them to be the star of the show. As I work to enhance my design skills, I look for inspiration from contemporary painters, sculptors and natural forms.”
Chris finishes his work in house and by hand. He prefers natural finishes like an oil-based finish because it enhances the natural grains and characteristics of the wood. He has experimented with other finishes such as bleaching, ebonizing, oxidizing and the Japanese technique of Shou Bugi Ban, which is a torching process that preserves the wood. “Finishing the work can often be a time-consuming, multi-step process, but it is what really brings the piece to life, “said Chris.
Over the years, Chris has invested in some incredible tools, however, his favorites are his grandfather’s hammer that he used while building the Brooklyn Bridge and a set of vintage chisels he bought at a yard sale.
One of his most unusual and creative series is the Squiggle Collection, which he designed during the pandemic. He notes that the full-length Squiggle Mirror is a favorite of customers who try to figure out whether the wood has been steam-bent or sculpted. In fact, Chris received the Best Accessory Award at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) Show in 2022 for his Squiggle Mirror.
His work has been displayed at galleries and museums such as The Future Factory and The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook. “Í am humbled and honored to be the Artisan of the Month and have my work on exhibit at The Reboli Center. Growing up in Stony Brook makes this even more special and meaningful to me,” said Chris.
Chris Miano’s furniture is available at the Reboli Center, 64 Main Street, Stony Brook, which is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p. m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, please call 631-751-7707 or visit www.reboilcenter.org