Visitors to Oxford’s new science building immediately catch sight of the beautiful table that graces the entrance from the quad. Its beauty is matched only by the powerful story behind the table, one that brings together the strands of Oxford’s history, the dedication of its alumni, and its commitment to sustainability.
The designers of the table are Barry Jones and his wife Paula, owners of the Summer House, a furniture and design shop in Highlands, NC. The Joneses have produced furniture for clients all over the world, including such celebrities as George Lucas and Robert Redford. When approached by Oxford to design this custom piece, they readily agreed.
The wood for the project had an Oxford connection, too. The science building site is located on the northwest corner of the quad; Branham and East residence halls, built in the 1970s, were removed to make way for construction, but a massive white oak also had to come down. Eloise Carter, professor of biology and lead faculty member for the planning of the science building, and others wanted to honor the legacy of the tree, and they hit upon the idea of using wood from the tree to create a table that could be given a place of honor in the new building.
Mike Dennis, an environmental scientist and co-chair of the fundraising committee for the science building, arranged for the tree to be dated. Tests showed that the tree was more than 200 years old—making it older than Emory itself.
The Joneses designed the table with both the architecture of the building and the history of Oxford in mind. It is large—42 inches wide by 110 inches long and weighing nearly 1,000 pounds—and its trestle style is a historic design that also speaks to the Arts and Craft era. It was made with classic methods; there is no glue in the table, and all of it was constructed by hand. The table top features beautiful hand-planing strokes, and the dark stain comes from a custom, secret recipe the Joneses created.
A flat-screen monitor mounted on a wall near the table features a video that tells the story of tree and table. Says Barry, “This tree reminded me of everything that is great about Oxford, including unexpected opportunities, a chance to challenge myself, and learn by doing. I hope this table will be a wonderful addition to education at Oxford for years to come.” Indeed it will, Barry and Paula, and Oxford is grateful.