Jonah Meyer had long been “enchanted by the Catskills,” so when the Pennsylvania native graduated from Rhode Island School of Design, he immediately settled in the Hudson Valley. Almost as quickly, the sculptor and painter cultivated his fine arts background and started making furniture. “I hustled at a lot of craft fairs,” he recalls.
That early stamina paid off. Today, with his wife Tara DeLisio, the Woodstock woodworker runs the Sawkille Company, a small furniture business. Meyer spends most days in his Kingston workshop, hand-building chairs, tables, and bed frames from solid, sustainably harvested woods like bleached maple and fumed white oak. These contemporary-rustic pieces, many flaunting polished metal patches and natural oil finishes, then get the spotlight in the couple’s Rhinebeck showroom.
For Meyer — whose parents were a DIY jeweler and potter — and DeLisio, who grew up surrounded by Valley farms, the inspiration behind Sawkille’s original designs is clear.
“We both like old American furniture, but with a modern, simple bend. Interpreting and distilling the classical form to make it our own has been fascinating,” Meyer explains. “Our philosophy is that you can combine tradition and modern to create your own reality.”
Consider their iconic three-legged stool — a slender, stylish update to the traditional one a farmer might perch on to milk a cow. Likewise, the Tremper Rabbit bench, fashioned from rich black walnut ($3,400), is perfectly poised to grace the wall of any showplace farmhouse.
“Art informs our furniture,” says Meyer. “People like beautifully made things.”
Two one-of-a-kind After the Barn creations, fashioned from hemlock (left) and from pine (right)
As a little boy, Bob Staab — a native of Queens — would head up to the Catskills with his family every summer and settle into a “boarding-type summer house on a working farm” for a few weeks. Those fond pastoral memories undoubtedly paved the way for After the Barn, the handmade furniture company he launched a decade ago.
While Staab was content working as a longtime contractor, the economic recession struck and he was forced to diversify. But he wasn’t exactly sure how until a client requested an entertainment cabinet crafted from barnwood. “Well, you don’t just go to Home Depot for that. We found a local barn to dismantle, enjoyed the process, and it just progressed from there,” he explains.
Now, Staab works with his son Robby to create one-of-a-kind farm tables and custom cabinetry fashioned from the oak, pine, hemlock, chestnut, hickory, walnut, and cherry that have been salvaged from old barns as far away as Virginia.
After the Barn is certainly Staab’s creative ode to recycling, but he is also intrigued by the past inherent in each of the rechristened beauties on display in his Beacon showroom. “A farmer wore so many hats. He cleared his land, laid the stone foundation, then took trees from the clearing that were hundreds of years old and hand-hewed them into beams, true things of beauty,” Staab says. “We love the history and respect the labor that went into every barn we time-consumingly dismantle. We get a thrill giving new life to wood that is three hundred years old.”