Written by Mary Shustack
Watch out, world — Ethan Abramson is ready to make his mark.
“I just went international last month,” he says.
The Port Chester-based furniture designer smiles as he shares the news with WAG on a recent morning. Some of his creations, it turns out, have just been shipped to Canada.
Anyone who has seen his handcrafted chairs, tables and other furniture designs would hardly be surprised to hear he’s breaking out beyond our borders.
Abramson caught not only our eye at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show in Manhattan in late March but also that of The Wall Street Journal, which included The Irving Chair in a roundup of standout seating.
He’s also begun doing some on-camera television work related to woodworking.
“It’s been a great, an incredible reception,” he says. “It’s very nice to make the jump.”
And this time of change is also having a personal impact. “When you’re working by yourself in a shop, you can let your beard grow. You can get sawdust in your hair. … I’m going from being in the shop all the time and being messy to getting two haircuts a week,” he says, with a laugh.
It is, though, a small price to pay for a career that seems to be on the brink of really taking off. He’s even in the process of moving to a larger workshop, still in Port Chester, where he will continue to design, create and hand-finish each and every piece of furniture.
Abramson brings a diverse background to his craft, having worked as a commercial interior designer, building brands and designing in-store spaces for clients ranging from Macy’s to Calvin Klein.
He also worked in advertising, writing and producing commercials for Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola and Major League Baseball.
That all came after graduating from Bard College with a bachelor of arts degree in studio arts.
In time, though, he realized he wanted to get back to the basics.
“I wanted to do something that I could do start to finish, morning to night, with my own hands.”
The East Hampton-born designer had been living for a long time in New York City and launched his own company in Brooklyn in 2008.
In time, he says, “My wife and I were looking for a place to get out of the city.”
And Port Chester fit the bill, as Abramson was committed to remaining a New York-based company devoted to American-made, environmentally conscious handcrafted furniture.
Abramson says he might, in fact, come by his skills naturally, as his grandfather is a retired cabinetmaker.
“I have a couple of his old planes,” he says, adding that the Irving pieces in his collection are named in his honor.
Abramson, who works primarily in walnut and white oak, sources his wood locally and prefers to use reclaimed wood or that which is the result of sustainable foresting.
Once built, pieces are protected with a thoughtful, chemical-free finish.
“It’s all hand-finished with an all-natural whey finishing product, like curds and whey,” he says.
Throughout the process, Abramson’s guiding principles include generating minimal waste, repurposing and employing environmentally conscious production methods.
He is also a member of 1% For The Planet, a global network of businesses that donate 1 percent of their profits to environmental groups around the world.
While his custom work, by nature, is designed to suit a client’s taste and need, his own designs share a spare, elegant aesthetic.
The Wandering Crane table’s legs resemble an animal-like walk, while The Plateau Table features a charming pair of resting spots.
Another popular design is The Irving Console Table, on which an almost-hidden drawer pivots into view.
“People really seem to enjoy this,” he says, demonstrating the clever opening.
Abramson has introduced his first line of furniture, while continuing to accept custom commissions for residential and commercial projects.
He’s currently working to promote his latest design, the Honeycomb Table, though he has a bit of help on that front.
His wife, Alexias, who has an MBA and works in advertising, handles the business side of things so, Abramson says, “I can do the creative part.”
It seems to be a winning combination that allows him to draw continually on his strengths.
So is his design radar on at all times? It seems so.
Abramson, who has come to the WAG photo studio for a portrait, is asked if he’s always examining the furniture he comes across, such as a particularly dated office chair. We’re ready for the critique, but Abramson’s response is telling.
“I don’t know how I would say it without sounding pretentious … I find the beauty in all types of design.”
Knowing what it takes to make furniture – the process from start to finish – gives him a unique perspective.
“When you put a physical product in the world it’s a totally different experience,” he says, glancing back at the old chair. “I don’t see it as ugly. I see … I like to take the best design element of it and focus on that.”
For his own work, Abramson says inspiration is everywhere, including his travels (he was off to Italy soon after our interview).
It’s his interpretations – and doing it all by hand – that make the difference.
“I feel like it’s better,” he says. “It gives more character.”
And while Abramson is certainly aware of furniture history and design trends, he still makes everything in his own way – and that’s the way he likes it.
“I’m just building what I like to build, and I feel that’s the way I set myself apart.”
Some days, though, when orders are plenty, he admits he does feel the pressure, but it does nothing but spur him on.
“Everything is made to order so nothing’s warehoused,” he says before adding with a laugh. “When you buy a piece of furniture, everything is fresh.”
For more, visit ethanabramson.com.