For thousands of years, a wide variety of wood has been used to cover floors, walls, and ceilings. For nearly as long, talented artisans have been practicing the craft of inlay. Whether sophisticated or whimsical, simple or elaborate, the inlay process begins in the mind of the artist. The design stage could require intricate drawings, full-scale mock-ups, templates, and patterns. And whether the inlay is made of a handful of parts or a hundred tiny pieces, careful attention goes into selecting an array of wood species that achieves the desired combination of color, grain, and texture. Only after this extensive preparation is complete can the inlay artist begin to cut and install each piece. Some of the intricate work pictured here took more than 300 man-hours of installation time alone.
Starring the entry
With its center star of African wenge, American cherry, and figured maple, the center of this medallion points the way to the living areas of the home. Canary wood and purple heartwood scallops surrounding the star brighten the entry and highlight the medallion. Handcut with a scrollsaw, the intricate Victorian border of Australian lacewood and eastern black walnut provides the final elegant touch. Designer: David Marzalek, DM Hardwood Designs, Mission Viejo, Calif. Installers: David Marzalek and Dustin Marzalek. Photo by Chris Haston.
Modern inlay art
When a visit to a lumberyard yielded a handsome slab of walnut, the owner of a private art gallery decided to showcase it as part of this elegant inlay. Gracing a second-floor landing, the walnut is framed by two planks of light maple and a band of deep-purple heartwood, proof that not all art hangs on gallery walls. Gallery design: Scott Simons Architects, Portland, Maine. Installation: Mark Dorsey Construction. Photo by Brian Vanden Brink.