Nakashima furniture collection

Visitors to the Andersen Horticultural Library discover that among the library's treasures are furnishings designed and built by influential American architect and master woodworker George Nakashima. Commissioned by the late Governor Elmer L. Andersen and his wife Eleanor, Nakashima's beautiful, custom-designed tables, chairs, display cases, and shelving complement the high ceilings, large bay windows, and wood paneled walls of Edwin Lundie's architecture to make an inviting and comfortable retreat for reading, reflection, and research.

Appropriate for the natural setting of the Arboretum, Nakashima's work shows an inherent respect for the life of a tree, reflecting his belief that the irregular growth and insect damage some would call flaws are instead indicative of the tree's character.

A great deal of thought goes into selecting the right piece of wood for each piece of furniture. Most of the Library's furniture was built from American black walnut; four tables are "book matched," meaning the boards come from the same tree and are joined and reinforced with butterfly inlays. The coffee table is from the burl of an English oak that grew for at least 400 years in the Sherwood Forest.

Despite Nakashima's wish that the furnishings be "lived with and not considered overly precious," the Library takes great care of the furnishings. Staff members provide surface protectors to patrons with laptops.  Every year since 1975, staff and volunteers have gathered for "Miserable Day," when each piece is laboriously, but lovingly, cleaned and oiled, as described in the article, "Nature Preserve," from the Star Tribune.