Living Ind

Sitting Pretty

by Mary Tutwiler

A pair of UL grads are creating one-of-a-kind furniture designs.

Since two 1991 UL graduates ' with interests as diverse as prehistoric Indians and welding ' joined forces in 2004, their business and artistic collaboration has built a workshop filled with striking, offbeat furniture. Douglas Allen's sculpture-welding torch sparked the creative imagination of Walter Welch, an anthropology major inspired by the grand architectural plan at Poverty Point. The result: contemporary furniture design that stretches back into the demanding techniques of hand-crafted joinery while leaping forward with materials, texture, color and shape.

Their tastes are eclectic, as is the furniture they produce. Allen studied upholstery, and it is clear that chairs and ottomans are approached as geometric skeletons meant to be covered by fabric skins. Shiny vinyl cube benches display precise stitching. Armchairs have been honed down to studies in solid geometry. There are few curves in the pair's chairs, and nubby gray or brown fabric adds to their quiet presence. Comfort and clean lines are the key.

Quiet, however, doesn't describe the custom furniture they designed for Baton Rouge's new Tsunami sushi restaurant. There, spare banquette-like sofas have been wrapped in retro glitter-spattered hot red vinyl. Another piece that screams is a steel and laminate armoire; playfully suspended from towering welded metal legs, the red body of the cabinet opens with offset cut-out hand holds that from some angles look like a spooky set of space-age eyes.

In juxtaposition to Welch and Allen's modern pieces, a mahogany table they crafted with old-fashioned wood working skills nods to the Japanese-influenced California Arts and Crafts movement of the 1920s. The table may function as furniture, but in form, Welsh and Allen are creating art.

Welch Allen Furniture is on display at Grand Contemporary art gallery (222 B Jefferson St.), and at Tsunami at the Shaw Center for the Arts (100 Lafayette St., Baton Rouge). For more info, contact Welch at 230-3550 or Allen at 247-3235.