Stephen Zerne


Handmade & Crafted Design

camping chairs

Hard maple, and hand block-printed cotton canvas, naturally dyed with Tennessee black walnut

These chairs are a collaboration with textile artist Kelli Hix. The chairs are modeled after camping chairs from the 1940’s. The designs are made by block-printing the fabric using hand-made blocks for printing. We used Tennessee black walnuts to naturally dye some of the pieces. The canvas is remove-able so that it can be washed or replaced as necessary. Since we are climbers and hikers ourselves, we created these chairs to be extremely durable, as well as beautiful to look at. Though small and light, they are tested to hold up to 240 pounds.

couch and endtables

Maple plywood, muslin, cotton canvas, foam, finished with Dutch oil

For this project, I worked with Kelli Hix to design and build a minimal, multifunctional furniture unit for her historic home. The 80 year-old home is small, with very little storage space. Ready-made furniture overwhelmed and cluttered the tiny living room space. The room was rarely used and never “felt” comfortable. Our goal was to turn the room into an inviting space for reading, socializing, and contemporary activities such as listening to music or streaming movies-- activites that did not exist when the home was built.

Influenced by the home of Georgia O’Keefe and the design work of Donald Judd, Kelli sketched out an open seating space that could also function as a bed for a guest. We created a sense of length and space by extending the seating area seamlessly into two end tables. The end tables provide open storage for the record collection and extra blankets and pillows while keeping the space light. The cushions can be removed, revealing a flat surface underneath that can be used for drinks or laptops.

I build the structure from maple plywood. I skipped a poly finish, opting for a more natural and low toxic Dutch oil finish. I hand-carved foam cushions, hand-sewed cushion cases from muslin, and machine- sewed unbleached canvas cushion covers. We washed the canvas three times to soften and pre-shrink it. The canvas covers are removable, and, since they are pre-shrunk, they can be tossed into the washer and dryer for easy cleaning.

leather belt

Scrap leather, brass buckle, sinew

When I found out that local furniture designer Emil Erwin was selling his leather scraps, I took the opportunity to pick some up and get back into some leather work. I designed, hand-cut, and hand sewed this belt. For this project, I hand cut the leather and used the saddle stitch technique to attach the buckle.

high shelf

Soft Maple, Dutch oil

I designed and built this shelf with Kelli Hix for a dining room in a historic home in Nashville, Tennessee. We wanted to create something that respected the history of the home while still feeling contemporary. The primary purpose of the shelf was to provide a home (and future home) for Kelli’s growing plant collection. The dining room is small, and we didn’t want guests to feel obstructed by the shelf. To achieve this, we created a very high shelf that would make the space feel airy, not crowded. This also allows the plant plenty of room to grow. We added rounded corners to make it feel contemporary, and to give sense of softness. A coat of white paint would have made the shelf blend into the wall-- but we opted instead to show off the grain of the wood with a natural and low toxicity Dutch oil finish.

Thank you for joining me! Have a great day!