Matt Booty grew up working with wood, learning about it from his father, a Christie’s-trained furniture restorer, who restored pieces from Windsor Castle when it burned in 1992.
When he started living on his own during college, Booty decided to make furnishings for his apartment rather than buy them. After reading books, watching YouTube videos and spending a few weekends working at his dad’s shop, he made an early version of his Fiskebein table.
“I learned growing up how to strip and refinish furniture, how to repair and sometimes make some stuff from scratch,” Booty says. “But I definitely had to teach myself a lot of new stuff and buy a lot of new tools, too.”
Part of Booty’s motivation was the desire to make something he could pass down to his grandchildren.
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“I wanted that for myself and then as I started making it, I realized that there was still a market and people who did want that kind of stuff.”
Booty went to college in High Point for audio engineering, but it never quite fulfilled his artistic side, whereas making the table from scratch was fun. The business aspect was a bonus. “It wasn’t something that I was necessarily seeking out. Some people and a couple companies gave me a break in providing kind of an outlet online, in stores, and that was it.”
In early 2015, Booty started his business, Enkle Designs, based in Apex. “Enkle” means “simple” in Norwegian. His work is heavily influenced by Scandinavian design and his pieces have Norwegian names. He especially likes mid-century work made out of lighter tones of wood, such as beech and birch, over mid-century Danish and American work that favors heavier and darker woods, such as walnut and teak.
Booty was born in South Africa, then the family moved to Seattle when he was nine, and a decade later they moved to Cary. Having grown up in South Africa, “where people make homes out of tin on the side of the road,” Booty appreciates the importance of materials. He takes care as to where he obtains his wood. He frequents a few local lumberyards, and also searches Craigslist for opportunities to buy from individuals, such as in cases where someone has wood that’s been drying out in a barn somewhere for decades.
“It’s also older growth,” he says. “The stuff that you buy nowadays, they try and grow a tree pretty quickly, and then they’ll cut it down. Thirty, forty years ago when they were cutting down wood, those trees were a hundred years old, so the wood feels different; it’s more dense, heavier, it looks different, it’s got more figure.”
Sustainability is also important to his work – “that people aren’t buying four pieces of furniture and throwing them away,” he says. “Rather, I’m trying to save materials by producing something that’s going to last for 200 years.”
This is evident in his shop, where he has tools used by both his father and his grandfather (the latter became interested in woodworking after seeing his son’s work). Tools of every size and shape line the shop’s walls and fill its drawers.
Booty has one employee, a Savannah College of Art and Design student named Elijah Bader, who works with him in the summer. Booty’s father chips in at times as well. Along with his furniture line and custom work for clients, he’s also working on a more inexpensive line that he can sell online. He expects that to come out in the spring.
Booty sells his work in Chapel Hill’s Palette & Parlor, a modern furniture store co-owned by Ivy Simon and her husband John. Of his designs, Ivy Simon says, “I think it’s rare to find the level of craftsmanship and attention to detail that he puts into his work.”
Simon also notes his pieces have a good sense of functionality, an example of which is the Lene desk. “We have several clients that have liked it because it’s a small piece that you can kind of fit (anywhere). You can have a desk or a mini office in the corner of your dining room.”
Betsy Greer writes about craft and activism at craftivism.com. Reach her at email@example.com.
Enkle Designs sells cutting boards, serving trays, tables, desks and more online at enkledesigns.com and at Palette & Parlor (2160 Environ Way, Chapel Hill) and Ramble Supply Co. (123 E. Martin St., Raleigh).
Price: Ranging from $20 (items such as cutting boards) to $4,000 (console) and by commission.