An interview with Abir Ali + Andre Sandifer, the duo behind Ali Sandifer.
Walnut logs from Pike Forest will eventually be turned into modern designs at Ali Sandifer Studios.
Ali Sandifer's Heiss Desk incorporates sleek storage, an efficient desktop and beautiful design.
Ali Sandifer avoids wood stains to celebrate the true species of the hardwood they use in their designs.
What are the key features of your designs?
Our internal pledge is to produce work that is as beautiful as it is intelligent. Many of our pieces integrate storage and surface. We are committed to producing work that lasts.
Ali Sandifer Studio is very intimate with your design process. Why is this important to you?
Largely because we are passionate about both design and craft. Designing without an inherent knowledge and enthusiasm towards fabrication is uninteresting. We are most excited during the prototyping phase because it is undoubtedly the most creative and enjoyable. This critical experience with our work allows us to release it confidently and with a sustained passion for each piece.
You have a very good relationship with your local lumber supplier. Tell us about that.
We have an enormous respect for Charles Horn Lumber. We frequently tell Scott, the great grandson of Charles Horn, that he may well be the nicest guy in Chicago. Similar to Pike Lumber, the company has been family owned for generations. Scott's genuine appreciation for wood and its source is clear. His excitement and knowledge of his product energizes us. We feel taken care of with him and are confident that he hand chooses our lumber with our needs in mind.
The founders of Horn Lumber: Charles Horn + Norman T. Horn circa 1918. Horn Lumber is a family-owned lumberyard supplying wood for Ali Sandifer creations.
And Horn Lumber recently helped you trace the wood you use to the source, a family-owned forest in Indiana. Tell us about that process.
We sat down with Horn Lumber to understand the process in depth to satisfy our own curiosity. We quickly reached a point where we were asking ourselves where does this material come from? Our pieces have a history and life well before us and we wanted desperately to acknowledge and understand this. We were so satisfied in learning that our lumber is sourced from family owned forests in the Midwest, many of which had been owned for generations. Our local lumber yard had established intimate relationships with these forests, avoiding the middle man that can so easily dictate the process.
What qualities do you look for in the woods you choose to work with?
First and foremost, we embrace the notion that wood comes from a tree. This basic understanding contributes to the beauty of the work. The industry is inundated with plywood furniture of unblemished wood grain and out-of-context stain. This is not wood. We welcome color distinction between sap wood and mature wood, knots from the memory of branches and variations in grain. Using all parts of the tree is striking with the added bonus that it is also sustainable. Beyond aesthetics, we enjoy working with hardwoods because of its innate strengths and weaknesses; acknowledging this allows us to maximize the quality of our furniture.
How long does it typically take to create a piece, from selecting the wood to delivering to the client?
Typically, our material is delivered to us within a week and total fabrication time is up to six weeks. Our furniture is truly handcrafted — by one person — from start to finish. We use a holistic approach where one person plans the fabrication of the design, selects the exact grain and wood that will be used, joins, sands and sculpts all the pieces and finishes out the final product.