Native Intelligence: O‘ahu

Reclaimed Beauty

Story by Catharine Lo Griffin. Photos by Olivier Koning.

When Laurent Pool first became the conservation land coordinator at Waimea Valley, he spent hours at a time in the forest, pruning branches and chopping down invasive species. Often the felled trees were sent to the chipper or left to rot, quietly forgotten. In the midst of removing some Spanish elms in 2012, it occurred to Laurent that by recycling this wood into furniture, he could give it a new life.

So Laurent had some logs milled and made a small dining table, resurrecting the skills he learned from his father, a boat-builder in Laurent’s native Seychelles. Soon after, an O‘ahu restaurateur asked him to build a twenty-two-foot-long monkeypod bar. With that piece, Laurent discovered his passion for fashioning large slabs of wood into functional pieces: tables, beds, cribs, kitchen islands, bars.

Drawing inspiration from craftsman Greg Klassen’s “River” table collection, which marries matching live-edge slabs with inlaid “rivers” of blue glass, Laurent recently created “Keiki Pools,” fitting oddly shaped pieces of glass onto holes in an old tree that disease had hollowed out. “I imagined it as this place where most of us teach our kids how to swim, where we dip them in and let them play and geek out on all the fish,” Laurent recalls. He says his personal experiences in nature—as a marine biologist, a boat captain, a scuba diver, a forest conservationist and now a husband and father of twin boys—guide his creative designs.

While some woodcrafters regard cracks or holes as imperfections, Laurent incorporates them into his designs and favors a “live edge”—keeping the original outline of the trunk, rather than squaring it off. “I look at a bark inclusion and see that’s where somebody cut a branch off,” he explains. “Maybe that tree went through some trauma—why? Instead of getting rid of the scars, I think it’s cool to highlight them and let them tell their stories.”