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Woodworking Magic: A Look Inside the Studio of Anzfer Farms

Photography by Jen Siska

Joe Ferriso and Jon Anzalone had similar career paths: Both studied painting and took woodworking jobs to make money. Before making woodworking their vocation, Anzalone apprenticed with woodworker Peter Murkett and Ferriso worked in a frame shop (where he built boxes to display Martin Scorsese’s awards). After moving to San Francisco, they made it their day job and opened their studio. 

For most woodworkers, projects begin with a trip to the lumberyard. But for Joe Ferriso and Jon Anzalone, the process begins at the edge of a beach or inside a Dumpster. The pair seeks out driftwood that has washed up on the shore near their San Francisco studio or scrap wood from building demolitions and then uses it to create contemporary furniture and lighting. For Ferriso and Anzalone, it’s not just the cost of these materials (free) or the ethics of the practice (reuse), it’s also the quality that draws them to the trash bin. “We’ve found that scrap wood is superior to materials you buy at the lumberyard,” says Anzalone. “Wood that’s been recently harvested is grown quickly and is less stable. Lumber from old buildings comes from old-growth trees and is harder with a better grain.” Once the wood is in their hands, it’s dried, planed and brought back to life. Although they generally have a design concept in mind, the shapes and colors of their finds inspire new directions. “There’s a character in scrap wood, a sense of mystery,” says Ferriso. “It has saw and nail marks from a previous, often unknown, life. You never know what you’ll find underneath the old paint.”

In the studio they share with dogs Baby and Whitney, Anzalone and Ferriso are constantly bouncing ideas off each other and coming up with new concepts. “We are always talking, always asking each other, ‘What if?’” says Anzalone. 

This chair from the duo’s Lock and Key line caught the eye of interior designer Gary Hutton. Ferriso sent out emails to a list of prominent designers, and Hutton was the single response. “I think it’s important to keep on top of what’s new,” says Hutton. “I went out to their workshop and found that they were not only hip, but also sincere. I ended up using the chairs in a big project.”

The design team often includes color in their work, such as a shot of green between the planks of a bench or blocks of red and yellow in a reclaimed-wood wall sculpture. “At heart, Jon is a color theorist,” says Ferriso.

Instead of sanding the patina and imperfections out of wood, Ferriso and Anzalone celebrate it. For their driftwood lamps, the material is smoothed by waves and water in ways that are impossible to replicate.

Ferriso and Anzalone always have concepts in mind, but their work is influenced by the haul from their daily foraging trips. “Every day we make a new discovery,” says Ferriso.

When the duo couldn’t get galleries to take notice of their furniture, they created their own showroom in front of their Richmond District workshop. “It’s not so much about aggressively selling our pieces; it’s really for displaying our work the way we see it,” says Ferriso. 

Anzfer Farms, 2441 Balboa St., SF, anzferfarms.com

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2011 issue of California Home + Design. Click here for the entire digital issue!