When craftsman Randy Cochran was a new father, he had a design inspiration.
His vision of a smoothly rocking, long-lasting chair became the Lookout Mountain Rocker. Its hand-crafted frame of native hardwood and hand-stretched saddle leather achieved national acclaim four decades later when Garden & Gun magazine named it the 2012 Made in the South Awards Overall Winner.
“Everything we do is hand-built one at a time,” Randy said. “We’re making modern antiques. We guarantee everything we do for 100 years or as long as any of us are alive.”
These days, his sons, Keith and Dylan, spend 80 hours per piece producing signature furniture at Wood Studio in Arley. The shop, originally located in Randy’s Nashville backyard, moved to Winston County in 2005.
The Cochrans craft pieces in limited production runs. They use the time-tested technique of overlapping mortise and tenon joints, which are glued and pegged with brass pins. The meticulously fashioned frame draws together when the Lookout Mountain Rocker is used, strengthening the piece.
“It’s become an obsession to make sure we don’t cut corners or leave scratches, that everything is as tight and well-fitted as possible so it will last for generations,” said Dylan, who grew up hammering scrap wood with his brother.
Before joining Wood Studio full time, the brothers followed in their father’s footsteps and graduated from Auburn University.
“(Because of my professors at Auburn) my design sense is influenced by the Bauhaus movement, along with my love for nature,” said Randy, referencing the German art school famed for its modernist construction philosophy.
Wood Studio furniture includes the Beersheba (pronounced Bursh’ba) Swing. While the Cochrans’ other creations are original, this piece is based on an 1800s swing in Beersheba Springs, Tennessee. The Beersheba Swing, with arm rail spanning the sides and back, hangs from four mule harness trace chains, almost like a hanging bed.
The 6.5-foot swing was originally made of sassafras but can also be built from poplar, red oak or white oak.
The Cochrans said they emulate the quality of work used by craftsmen of previous centuries, creating solid and sturdy pieces that last a lifetime. They construct each item from one piece of wood, contributing to consistent color, grain and density.
Signature pieces evoke nature through clean lines and simple design. Besides the rocker and swing, signature furniture includes the Big Wills Valley Stool, perfect for a kitchen island and complete with a curved backrest and leather seat; Little Wills Valley Stool, which serves as a side table, footrest or seat; and the Crane Chair, made of bent laminations cold-molded to provide a curved back. The Winston County Flying Ottoman complements the flagship Lookout Mountain Rocker.
While walnut is the most popular wood choice, maple, cherry, ash and oak shine in Wood Studio’s portfolio. The Cochrans source local wood when available, often salvaging lumber from nearby landowners.
Finished products are treated with natural waxes and oils, which display the wood’s innate beauty. Each piece is stamped, signed, numbered and dated.
Wood Studio signature pieces, which start at $950, bring enjoyment to owners, primarily found on the East and West Coasts in areas such as California, New York and Martha’s Vineyard.
“We’re fortunate that people are willing to make the investment,” Keith said. “It’s an investment in our blood, sweat and tears to make this furniture.”
Six Lookout Mountain Rockers frame the fireplace at the Lodge at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, a prime place potential customers can test Wood Studio creations.
In addition to signature lines, the Cochrans build custom entertainment centers and cabinetry.
“I’ve always designed and built functional, comfortable furniture,” Randy said. “A lot of furniture designers try to do things that are avant-garde or kitschy. I always just made furniture for people to use.”
For the Cochrans, the best part of Wood Studio is spending time with each other. It also brings back memories of when the Lookout Mountain Rocker wasn’t just a chair customers crave nationwide. It was an integral part of Keith and Dylan’s childhood, often imaginatively transformed into a racecar or spaceship.
“When we started woodworking, we had an attachment to the chair itself,” Dylan said. “Because of our history with the chair, we have such dedication in making sure the finished product really is the nicest we can make.”
Learn more at WoodStudio.com.