Ryan Maher and his partners at Mabuno Contemporary Furnishings don't go to the lumberyard for wood to craft into high-end tables or sofas. They hike the Rocky Mountains looking for avalanche fields, where ancient trees have been uprooted, cracked, twisted.
"You look at a 100-year-old piece of oak - I trip out thinking about how many gnarly storms it's weathered," Maher said. "It's at the end of its tired life. We come, take it and showcase it."
Their finds are handcrafted into modern tables, beds, sofas and more at Mabuno, which opened in Solana Beach in April.
Each piece draws on the talents of four friends - Maher, a designer; Justin Root, a carpenter; and Todd Noe, a welder, who grew up together in Encinitas, and Bret Burroughs, who specializes in procuring sustainable materials.
The artistic team designs and builds each piece of furniture around the natural contours and angles of the wood, letting it dictate the finished product.
"We don't take away from it," Maher said. "We celebrate the natural quality of the piece."
Besides avalanche fields, the group recycles wood from old barns in the Midwest and Northeast and high-quality scraps from home construction or purchases it from sustainably-managed farms.
Reducing one's impact on the Earth is the guiding force in Mabuno's operations and creations.
"The pieces are reflective of that philosophy of trying to make use of everything and not waste anything," Maher said.
For example, the cracks in a thick piece of oak were filled in with charcoal burned down from the wood's own scraps. The slab was set on industrial casters found in a scrap yard to become a one-of-a-kind movable table.
Maher likes to keep designs simple, often using recycled aluminum and other metals for supports. But sometimes he incorporates potted garden displays, with succulents, orchids, moss, Manzanita branches and rocks. The living element is something unexpected, but also strengthens the connection of the furnishing and its users to the environment.
The result is not just a piece of furniture, but a work of art.
"You can feel that this says something to you, makes you want to be creative," Maher said.
Maher stressed the furniture is functional art meant to be used by the entire family - rough and tumble kids included.
Maher and Burroughs, who met at Western University in Colorado, started their first furniture line there.
But after a few years, they decided to move somewhere more accessible and chose North San Diego County because they saw a need for progressive art and design, Maher said.
Maher said they hope to provide the region with high-quality, artistic and sustainable furnishings and show that Mabuno is accessible to everyone - especially through custom orders.
Mabuno is at 414 N. Cedros Ave. in Solana Beach. For more information, go to