It started with a slab of Claro walnut. For nearly 30 years Pati Doyle-Weber and her husband, Dr. Steven J. Weber, amassed an impressive collection of Nakashima furniture, propelled by their appetite for mid-century modern design.
Since they discovered their mutual passion, the Doyle-Weber’s dreamed of commissioning work from renowned designer George Nakashima. In the late 1980s, the couple visited the craftsman and his daughter, Mira, in their New Hope, Pennsylvania studio. Slabs of a great old Claro walnut tree from northern California were among the materials displayed and Nakashima pointed to one slab in particular, where the remains of a bullet were lodged into its surface, shot over 100 years before. When the slab began to topple and fell on Steven during the tour, he was determined it was a sign and it was fated to be theirs.
George passed away shortly after the Doyle-Webers’ visit and Mira subsequently took over the construction and design of the table. Pati and Steven became patrons of Mira’s following the death of her father in 1990 and, within their immense collection, one can see the evolution of Mira’s work.
Both Pati and Steven were influenced by mid-century modern design growing up. Pati was familiar with Nakashima’s work, being from Bucks County. Her affinity for design translated into her secondary tertiary education at The Fashion Institute (FIT) in New York and a career in International Women’s Fashion.
Steven grew up in Whitestone Queens in a home filled with original Noguchi furniture. After finishing a fellowship in Infectious Disease at Hannaman hospital in Philadelphia, Steven opened his first practice in Doylestown and Grandview.
Soon there after, Pati and Steven found themselves on a blind date and discovered a mutual appreciation for mid century modern design while watching Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors.
“Wow, what a house!” they agreed.
Years later when the couple sought to build their own home, the table made of that slab of Claro walnut, would be its centerpiece.
The extraordinarily large and impressive Holtz table has eight butterflies in American black walnut and laurel. In order to support the slab's size (cut to over nine feet by six feet), the studio utilized the "Altar"-type base George had used years earlier, in 1986, for the first of his "Peace Altars," the spiritual culmination and design apotheosis of his lifelong work.
These Altars, George envisioned, would each be gifted to a continent of the globe and serve as "shrines" to peace and communal understanding. Designed specifically to accommodate a large gathering and celebrate a truly remarkable tree, the table selected by George and designed by Mira for the Doyle-Webers’ shares both a design and spiritual kinship with these Altars for Peace. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Conoid chairs selected for the table are themselves superlative, with seats carved from a single board of exceptionally-figured walnut.
Pati and Steven worked with Mira from then on and the table was ready well before construction on their Worcester, Pennsylvania home was finished. This timeline enabled the couple to utilize the architecture of their home to showcase the Claro table and the accompanying eight, one-piece seat, white-spindled Conoid chairs. The open living room dropped three steps down from the dining room so they could sit and look at their table just as they did the art on their walls.
Almost every month during the construction of their home, Pati and Steven would visit Mira at the studio to look at other woods while strengthening a friendship forged on mutual passions. Mira's guiding hand allowed the couple to amass a trove of furniture for their home that highlights a unique passing of the baton from George to Mira. Other impressive comissions ordered from Mira through the 1990s include pieces include a set of four New chairs, benches, coffee tables, lounge chairs and side tables. They even commissioned a Mira High Chair with special needs adaptations for their son, Matthew.
The Collection of Pati Doyle-Weber and Dr. Steven J. Weber started with a slab of Claro walnut and it represents the building not only of a home, but of a family. It is also among the nicest assemblages of Mira Nakashima's early work.