Meet Furniture Designer Fitzhugh Karol
An artist creates furnishings rooted in rugged landscapes.
If you’ve wandered around Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens or Staten Island’s Tappen Park, chances are good that you’ve come across striking wood or metal installations by Fitzhugh Karol. The artist’s massive forms feature graceful arches and stair-like indentations, motifs that he has articulated through various artistic pursuits—drawing, pottery, ceramics—since childhood.
“I connect my vernacular to the hills where I grew up,” says the New Hampshire native. “I’ve always loved the process of discovery when you’re hiking and decide to go down a different path.”
After his 2007 graduation from the Rhode Island School of Design, where he earned a master of fine arts degree in ceramics, Karol moved to New York with his wife, a jewelry designer and decorator, and made seating pieces for their apartment using wood he found on the street. His day job: fabricating furniture designs for the Brooklyn Home Company, a boutique residential and commercial development firm. (He still works there today.) Only in the last few years, Karol says, has he “started making things that are much more rooted in my DNA,” crafting console tables, bar carts, and desks that bear his sculptures’ “visual language.”
Karol’s large-scale artworks inform most of his furnishings, some of which combine structural steel and carved wood, whereas others incorporate marble. “One of the most attractive aspects of working with wood is that the final product can be very sinuous and have subtle, complex curves,” he says. “Steel is pliable, too, but in a different way.”
Working out of a large, airy studio in Gowanus, Karol uses as much reclaimed or leftover wood as possible. A stacked-wood console table featuring his signature jagged indentations, for instance, is fabricated from discarded Douglas-fir framing timbers. He begins the design by drawing a zigzag shape in pencil on each piece of wood, which he then carefully cuts with a band saw. Each timber piece is sanded and then secured with dowels, one on top of another, after which a slab of Carrara marble is placed on top.
“Whether I’m making furniture or sculpture,” he says, “I think about the process in the same way. It’s me in my studio, playing with different combinations of shapes.”