Q&A with S. Lloyd Natof, Great Grandson of Frank Lloyd Wright

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Photos by Michael Hahn

If you were asked to name one famous architect in Chicago, undoubtedly the first name that would come to mind is Frank Lloyd Wright. Known for his Prairie, organic style homes, Wright custom-designed every detail down to the fixtures, furniture, carpet, windows, doors, tables, and light fittings.

S. Lloyd Natof, great grandson is a renowned furniture designer making a name for himself in his own right. Designing and building furniture from a spacious second floor atelier in an old factory, he has earned a reputation for elegant design with precise woodworking. Working on a commission basis, he has created pieces for private collectors, architects and corporations as well as interior and liturgical designers.

Is your style similar to Frank Lloyd Wright’s?

LN: No, my pieces are more finely finished objects and less geometric. I am not so much interested in the wood itself as the compositional properties of wood and the intense coloration possibilities.

How did he influence you?

LN: Our family is very creative in general. I studied music  for 10 years before delving into furniture design and woodworking.  I can count at least six others in our family that have the same artistic passion. I teach wood shop, object design and mentor at the Frank Lloyd Wright School once or twice a year.

What’s your choice wood to work with?

LN: Right now, white ash, which is known as the poor man’s oak. It has an un-uniform pattern which is currently being attacked by the emerald ash borer, an invasive species of insects that is destroying the population. Once damaged, these trees are usually destroyed for mulch. I did a show “Rising From the Ashes” to showcase the usability of the wood for furniture.

What’s the favorite piece you’ve designed?

LN: Right now the Missbach Day. The darker and more exotic I can make something, the more satisfied I am. I am very drawn to burls and other non-linear grain patterns that allow for the creation of volumes- the possibility is a cabinet or table pure in expression of shape and volume, free from the tyranny of the plank.

Where do you hangout in Chicago?

LN: Chicago is topographically challenged. I try to get out of the urban jungle and enjoy exploring the industrial areas as much as I can- the buildings, railroads and bridges.

SL Natof, 1217 W. Monroe. 312.733.4205. http://www.slnatof.com/

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