Those 40-odd years ago, before he paused to take stock of his working life, Kiusalas was selling advertising. It didn’t quite suit him. “I wanted to do something with my hands,” he says. Kiesalas’s father-in-law, Henry Chase, gave him some gorgeous old chestnut wood. He built two tables: one for himself, and one for Chase. “I got excited over old wood,” Kiusalas says. “Time oxidizes it. No stains can match nature, its natural colors.” Antique chestnut, oak, pine—the handcrafter loves them all.
In earlier years, most of Kiusalas’ tables had an historic air. While he still loves reproductions, his repertoire has changed considerably. “I’ve been building more conceptual art furniture,” he says. His latest piece is a hall table called The Clown. Six feet long and collapsible, the table is a colorful, lighthearted romp of wood and found objects from old beds, staircases, and, as Kiusalas says, “whatever.” He also represents other furniture makers, often former apprentices. The shop’s stock has expanded to include custom lamps, mirrors, and chairs—Windsor, thumb back, and other classics—to help customers complete their dining sets.
Kiusalas’ first table was a heavy chestnut piece he built with boards from his father-in-law’s barn and beams from an old bog. “It was crude but strong,” Kiusalas says. That was 1969. Today, Kiusalas sits down to dinner with his wife, Barbara, at another chestnut beauty he built 20 years ago. It’s easy to picture Kiusalas, a thoughtful but easy-going man, drinking tea at his table and reflecting on his philosophy. Today, in work and in life, he says, “I take things as they come.”
For information, go to www.westbarnstabletables.com