Entryway Benches, Explored by Nico Yektai

This series was born of a commission for a sculptural entryway bench.  The piece was the second bench that I had made and became the first in my ongoing numbered series of one-of-a-kind benches.  Since then I have expanded my approach from thinking in terms of entry benches to thinking of benches for public spaces.  As always, the beauty of handmade wooden furniture is that any moment in any bench can serve as the starting point for a commission. Commissions are great because they become a collaboration that results in the perfect size, shape and material for your needs. Keep in mind that these benches are all designed for indoor use. Bench Series #2 is the series for you if you are looking for a modern outdoor bench.
bench 3 in a hallway with rugged stairs
oxidized saple and white cast concrete
Bench #15 Series #1
Sapele, Stainless Steel, White Cast Concrete 32"H x 87"W x 17"D

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Bench #15 uses the same curved leg that I made for Bench #14. I wanted to use the leg in combination with a new leg that also used the new reinforced concrete to its maximum potential. The new leg curves its way up above the oxidized Sapele seat and serves as an arm rest. It also serves as a visual gesture that helps give this bench its unusual thrust. This modern bench employs one more material, stainless steel, to push the design into new territory. The stainless brackets are bent to form the supports for the partial back. The back enhances the gesture of the bench and serves to increase the comfort of the bench.
walnut and white cast concrete bench
Bench #14 Series #1
Walnut, White Cast Concrete 21"H x 72"W x 14"D

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Bench #14 represents the moment that my ability with cast concrete took an evolutionary leap. I had just finished a commission for a concrete dining table which had forced me to learn about reinforced concrete. I immediately applied those new techniques to a curved casting. The leg would not have been possible for me to make just a few months ago. The high-tech mix combined with my expert ability making molds will further allow for further exploration of complex forms. The white cast concrete is paired with a walnut that is stacked up in my signature style. The piece was very well received at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show, where it made its debut.
oxidized sapele and white cast concrete modern bench
Bench #13
Cherry and Ash 81" L x 20" W x 28"H

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Bench #13 is one of those pieces of furniture that jumped out of my imagination and came to life. The cast concrete legs are poured in white concrete to establish a contrast tot he oxidized Sapele of the seat. The legs come up above the benches surface in decorative eruptions. This allows doe a new approach to the wood/concrete transition. The legs are threaded on to the seat emulating mortise and tenon construction of solid wood furniture. The subtle curve of the seat is clearly defined at this transition. This bench can go anywhere, but I like to see it used as a window bench or any other situation where it can find an open expanse. The bench is nearly 8 feet long, but it is quite narrow and will fit into many situations. I should mention again that the benches in this series are indoor benches. I mention this because many people see concrete and think outdoor bench. In this case I use concrete because for me it says modern bench!
cherry bench with lone arm rest
Bench #12
Cherry and Ash 81" L x 20" W x 28"H

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Bench #12 was designed after a flurry of activity in my other bench series. I wanted to return to the wooden bench and see what I could do. The result is a contemporary wood bench that is subtle yet powerful. The lone arm rest sets up an asymmetrical rhythm to this nearly 8’ long bench. The arm rest and back leg erupt above the surface like a mountain pushes up from a plain. This moment and the unusual hand shaping of the arm beg to be touched. I love the tactile nature of wood, it is always warm to the touch! Wood will always be at the center of this exploration of decorative benches.
cast concrete and spalted maple top bench
Bench #11
Cherry and Ash 81" L x 20" W x 28"H
Bench #11 represents a few firsts within this series and my body of work. Bench #11 uses a single massive piece of Maple that has a very pronounced grain structure. I am not the sort of woodworker that uses wood like this. In fact the board had the natural edge that a whole category of wood design is built around, referred to as live edge. My approach to design takes a different approach to material. I strip the live edge and any other character away from the board. I then put my own vocabulary back in. If I have done my job well then the finished piece has a balanced, natural, feel as a result of my understanding of composition. The bench also introduces cast concrete to the series. The legs are quite unique and combine with the spalted maple in a pleasing way. This bench is narrow enough to fit in an entryway and still show off the benches character.
ipe bench with massive staggered legs
Bench #10
Cherry and Ash 81" L x 20" W x 28"H

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Bench #10 was supposed to be an outdoor bench. I abandoned that notion half way through and decided that it would be an indoor bench, like the rest of the benches in this series. The reason has to do with the approach to composition and the resulting detail in this bench. The stacked up legs and the integrated stretchers are so clearly related to Bench #3 that I knew that this bench had to be part of this series. The bench could be used a foyer bench, but it would have to be a large foyer due to the fact that this bench is 8 feet long.
massive mahogany bench with scuplted dovetail back
Bench #9
Cherry and Ash 81" L x 20" W x 28"H

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Bench #9 employs the same unusual approach to dovetails as Bench #8. This time the dovetail joint helps transition the two halves of the unusual back/leg structure of this modern bench. This bench is monumental at 10 feet long. The 4 inch thick seat feels proportional to the size. This bench is one of the best wooden benches that I have designed. I still have it in my collection and I would like to see it in a museum of other public space some day. If I had to put one bench forward as an example of my work I would be hard pressed to think of a better bench than this one.
cherry bench featuring massive dovetailed legs
Bench #8
Cherry and Ash 81" L x 20" W x 28"H
Bench #8 explores my structural approach to design from a slightly different perspective. The seat of the bench is hand shaped while benefiting from the layering that is my signature approach to building up mass. The layered Cherry transitions with the help of massive dovetails to connect the legs. Dovetails speak to the history of furniture design and craftsmanship as they are the single joint that expresses quality. I use the dovetail as a landscape within a landscape. The pins and tails are not trimmed flush as would be the conventional thing to do. They are left long and trimmed into a spontaneous composition that becomes the focal point of this sculptural bench.
10 foot bench handmade in maple and oak
Bench #7
Cherry and Ash 81" L x 20" W x 28"H
Bench #7 acknowledges that Bench #6 was hard to follow. I decided to use this an opportunity to change scale. Bench #7 is the first 10 foot long bench that I had designed. The combination of White Oak and Maple contribute to the sense of size with the maple legs defining the boundaries of this bench. The legs are massive expressions in stacked up and shifted maple. The stretchers are in on the action in this unique bench too. One of them actually pierces through the White Oak seat and sets off a bunch of details that are quite engaging. These are the details that make these benches more about sculpture and composition than mere function.
wave of white oak poetically fanning to support the bench
Bench #6
Cherry and Ash 81" L x 20" W x 28"H
Bench #6 is a contemporary bench presented in White Oak. The wood is glued together in an undulating wave. The individual piece become part of a greater composition, just like in all of my work. The bench was designed for an open space. I feel that there is just too much movement for this to be used as a hallway bench or a foyer bench. This could be a loft bench or used as a lobby bench for sure. The sweep of the wooden wave/back imparts a sense of wonder that needs to be seen from a bit of a distance.
bench made uf small bits of hardwood
Bench #5
Cherry and Ash 81" L x 20" W x 28"H
Bench #5 was born of my thrift. These scraps of wood were piling up in the corner of my shop. I used them to cobble together Bench #5. The process was fluid and completely different from the benches that had preceded it. The result was a unique bench within this series of unique benches. I was forced to approach my style from a new perspective. I tried to maintain my voice with a completely new language. The thread that binds this bench to the rest of the series is the notion of spontaneity and the fact that I am essential to the process. This bench clearly was composed one piece of rubble at a time, by me.
conversation bench in cherry and colored ash
Bench #4
Cherry and Ash 81" L x 20" W x 28"H
Bench #4 is built around the notion of a conversation bench. The two half backs face each other encouraging people to face each other. Perhaps this is why some people refer to this sort of bench as a kissing bench? My interest was the potential for asymmetrical composition that the two backs present. They are quite different and encourage the viewer to move around the piece. The bench is presented in a combination of Cherry and Ash. I have filled the grain of the Ash with pigment to help bring the color in line with the Cherry.
mocern bench in maple with pao ferro accent
Bench #3
Cherry and Ash 81" L x 20" W x 28"H
Bench #3 represents an important moment for me in the series of benches. The seat was conceived of as a landscape with a mountain range that pushes out of the right side. I did not want the seat to be flat due to the potential for greater comfort. Function is an important part of my work and this exploration. The solution was to angle the seat so that it cradles the body. I was so happy with this feature that it is standard on all of the benches in Bench Series #2, my series of indoor/outdoor benches. The legs and stretcher of this 96” maple bench showcase my structural style. Each component is visible and is composed in the moment by me. These are all handmade benches after all!
partial back and arm rest in creative bench made of mahogany and red oak
Bench #2
Cherry and Ash 81" L x 20" W x 28"H
Bench #2 was the bench that made me decide to pursue this subject as a numbered series. I thought of it as a continuation of the exploration started in Bench #1. This too is an indoor bench, but the final destination is no longer known. The bench could end up as a hallway bench or a window bench? My interest was designing a dynamic composition that could thrive in any situation. The wood is a combination of Mahogany and White Oak. The Oak anchors the right leg and the half back on the left side setting up a diagonal movement throughout the piece. The left leg terminates at the benches back with a flat surface that can be used as an arm rest. The Mahogany seat has an unusual shape that employs my layering approach to building up surfaces. The layers are shaped and create “moments” that are vital to the composition.
sculptural cherry and ash bench
Bench #1
Cherry and Ash 81" L x 20" W x 28"H
Bench #1 started the whole series of indoor benches. The bench was a commission for Abbey and B.H. Friedman. They had discovered my work at the Elaine Benson Gallery in Bridgehampton, NY. Their apartment in New York City was full of world class art, much of which was made for them. B.H. Friedman is the expert on Jackson Pollock. B.H. educated me in terms of the commission process. He expertly guided me to what he wanted while insisting that I make an original piece in my voice. The result was this unusual bench presented in the combination of Cherry and Ash. Bench #1 was designed as an entryway bench so I used the asymmetrical composition to greet the visitor and visually bring them further into the space.