A Midcentury Modern Refresher Course
Don Yacovella is handcrafting the kind of furniture that hasn’t emerged from a workshop around here since the iconic George Nakashima and Wharton Esherick were in their prime.
By Scott Edwards
This bench is the embodiment of Don Yacovella, the minimal treatment of the wood his humble nature, the high degree of difficulty made to look simple his next-level talent. He’s relatively new to the scene, even though making furniture’s all he wanted since his parents turned the barn behind their Chalfont home over to him in high school. (Yacovella still works there today. And his mom still lives out front. He bought the home next door to keep both close by.) But building custom stairwells and cabinetry paid the bills; furniture did not. The World Wide Web changed that.
He did the math, then refused all projects for the next year. That’s how long Yacovella gave himself to turn a profit. He was never going back, though. Today, with a backlog of orders, it’s hard to remember what that freedom felt like. But all he needs to do is glance at this very image. “That was like 15 years inside my head. I finally had the time and had finally built up the skills to be able to pull that off,” says Yacovella, who sports a bushy goatee and sideburns and a coating of sawdust from his floppy newsboy cap to his boots on the afternoon I visit his workshop.
His furniture evokes the midcentury modern icons, Esherick, Maloof: clean lines, the occasional raw edge and wood that’s left to look like wood, grains, knots, cracks and all. Yacovella makes no airs about improving on their designs. In fact, he calls this bench “The George Nakashima Bench.” Yacovella doesn’t usually get attached to his furniture, but this bench was different. It marked his arrival. “As bad as I needed the money, I would not give that bench to a person that I did not like,” he says. “It had to go to a good home.” It went to a woman in Venice Beach, California. They had several lengthy phone conversations before he finally sold it to her.
The bench is one-of-a-kind, for now at least. However, the lounge chair, which has been favorited by more than 3,700 people on Etsy, is still very much in rotation. It’s also the rare piece that Yacovella, a Clover Market regular, allows himself a bit of the credit. He’s tweaked the midcentury modern staple, giving the arm a new arch and taking care to match the grains at the joints, finally making it as comfortable as it is sexy. Yet, like its creator, still understated.
Don Yacovella Lounge Chair | $850 | etsy.com/shop/donyacovella
Photo credit: Courtesy Don Yacovella