The Beauty and Value of George Nakashima Furniture

Nakashima furniture

Large English oak burl and walnut table, George Nakashima (1905-1990). Auctioned for $204,000

Is it the lovely grain and sap streaks in the wood that make a table by famed furniture maker George Nakashima beautiful to behold? Perhaps it’s the meticulously crafted exposed joinery or the feeling of running my hand along its free edge that draws me in.  For some, it’s the appreciation that the maker crafted it with little more than tools and his own imagination.

Whatever inspires you to admire the work of George Nakashima, know that you are not alone, and should you ever get the chance to bid on his work at auction, be ready for a fight. The large Nakashima Dining Table pictured above sold at a Skinner 20th Century Design auction for $204,000!  The story behind it is as interesting as the table itself.

This particular Nakashima table dates back to 1973 when it was crafted for a close friend of George Nakashima, the Reverend Thomas W. Phelan. He had a keen eye for life and beauty. It is fitting that the two men were friends as both were spiritual with an understanding of all the forms of nature.

Selling this table meant I had to let it go. As I gazed at the large burl wood top with exposed butterfly joints, I wondered,  “Does the buyer love this table for the same reasons I do?  Or is there something else he sees in its iconic design?”

What inspired this bidder to make such an investment?  Whether it was an appreciation of its beauty, workmanship, or simply its market value, the truth is that investing in a work by George Nakashima, or any other artist, requires knowing what you value, and then raising your paddle.

17 thoughts on “The Beauty and Value of George Nakashima Furniture

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  2. George Nakashima was a creative genius. We still own several items but, with Jane Prentiss’s help, we did auction off a table and several chairs recently. The price was not $204,000 but it was still desirable. It is rewarding to own the works of a master craftsman.

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  4. i have 6 dining room chairs bought by my parents in new hope in the 70’s. walnur wit 8 sided birch? spindles.. i wonder about value.

  5. I hope this is the appropriate place to send a question.

    I have two Nakashima chairs and an end table to sell. I’m in Malden, MA.

    Could you please advise on what I should do/where I should go next?

    Thank you!

    Lee Fraser

  6. We just inherited a large black walnut dining table (same base design as the oak burl table pictured above, two or three butterflies, seats eight comfortably), eight matching walnut dining chairs with seagrass seats, a Windsor-ish chair with walnut seat and light wood spindles, and a walnut side table.

    I went to New Hope a few times in 1961 with my mother when she was picking out the magnificent piece of walnut for the table top. We met and spoke with George Nakashima, and she had many more conversations with him about the design of the table. It was used by our family every day for meals and was the centerpiece for entertaining. It is not in pristine condition but has the patina of loving use. The chairs were restrung with seagrass several years ago.

    We are considering whether to sell or keep these pieces. They are much loved and admired, even after all this time and daily use. They are in Massachusetts now. What should we do next to get an idea of what they might sell for at auction or what they should be insured for?

    Thank you for any information you can provide.

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  8. I just inherited 2 1960 Nakashima coffee tables purchased in Bucks County Pa and want to get them appraised in NJ. I will be up there for Labor day.

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