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Beetle Blues

Three Colorado designers are making the most of all that pine beetle wood.

April 2013

Pine beetles—the persistent little bugs that have made short order of our mountain forests and towering pine trees—aren’t the most beloved creatures in Colorado. Still, the pests introduced an interesting opportunity for enterprising designers. Suddenly, there’s plentiful lumber at rock-bottom prices, and it’s stained a telltale blue (thanks to a fungus the beetles leave behind—not harmful, we promise) that lends itself nicely to contemporary design. A growing cadre of Colorado furniture makers is using this lumber to create a new breed of “mountain modern” furniture; forget the old ski-chalet pine. “We are creating our own aesthetic,” says Corbin Clay of Denver’s Azure Furniture Company. “There is such tension in our culture with the beetle, and I think we are providing a release for that.” Every beetle-kill table or chair means less wildfire kindling. Plus, the emerging designs are attention worthy. Here’s a roundup of  local offerings.
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1. Console Table

Corbin Clay’s idea for Azure Furniture Company—to use low-cost beetle-kill pinewood to create affordable, modern furniture—won him the grand prize in Ketel One and GQ’s “A Gentleman’s Call” entrepreneurial contest. The solid-but-airy Harvard Work Table ($749, azurefurniture.com) goes great behind a sofa.

2. Pendant Light

Robyn Meier’s Beetle Kill Lamp ($100–$200, I’ve Got Wood Furniture, ivegotwoodfurniture.com) makes the perfect entry pendant. Also in Meier’s line: custom benches and woven lamps. “The idea is to ride the line between rustic and modern, masculine and feminine,” Meier says.

3. Bar Stool

Denver architect Craig Demmon takes advantage of the sculptural and artistic potential in beetle-kill wood with his new furniture line, Beetle Builds. His architectural X7 Bar Stool ($1,300, beetlebuilds.com) emphasizes the wood’s blue-stained grain patterns.