From time out of mind, cultures around the world have associated running water with life. And why not? After all, it’s critical for survival. Not only that, but there are few sights more inspiring or calming than a beautiful stream or lake. For artisans like Menno Schwartz, the owner of Unique Furniture in Milford, waterfront landscapes are so stirring that he and his staff recreate them in their furniture products.
Most of the furniture pieces made by Schwartz and his sons Caleb and Jonathan, along with employee Jeff Zimmerman, are live-edge, meaning the original character of the wood – including gnarls, knots and bark – is polished and preserved to create a signature, natural look.
“No one else anywhere is going to have a piece like it,” Schwartz says. “Each piece is different – each tree grows different.”
With waterfront landscape tables, more commonly known as river (or river run) tables, the idea is taken to the next level.
“You take a couple live-edge slabs and you put them side by side, and leave a space in the center for epoxy to make it look like a river,” he says.
His specialty is making river tables that look like the ones found in northern Indiana.
“We put in sand and stone and stuff like that, then use a clear epoxy so that it looks like a small stream or a river, where the water is clear or shallow enough that you can look down into the water,” Schwartz says.
However, he’s also done other types of epoxy tables.
“There are a lot of different things you can do with epoxy,” he says. “Your imagination is the limit. It’s something that we really enjoy. The other day, I had someone come in who had a couple slabs and they have bullet casings that they brought along, and they want those in the river run instead of stone and stuff like that.”
Unique Furniture started with a simple live-edge table that Schwartz wanted to make in 2019, which was reminiscent of the logo for his whitetail deer business.
“I’ve had that for years, and I wanted to build a table that looked basically like the logo,” Schwartz says. “I had this tree in the yard. I cut it down and took it to a mill.”
It was there that one of the millworkers introduced him to the concept of river tables. Schwartz was so enthralled with the idea that he decided to try his hand at making one.
“A couple of those first pieces, we did a pour and we’d end up scraping everything off and going back and sanding it down and redoing it,” Schwartz says. “There was a lot of trial and error to get to where we are today.”
Each piece made in the Unique Furniture workroom – whether a table, countertop, bathroom vanity, mirror, clock, or four-poster log bed frame – is individual and distinctive. Their tables in particular are unique, ranging in style from river tables to burl and stump end tables, and everything in between.
Each one is customized to the wants and needs of the client, whether they’re looking for a place for family dinners, an accent piece in the living room, or a stunning end table to grace the guest-room bed. Schwartz also offers delivery and installation for customers who need it, especially for their live-edge countertops and vanities.
“Our number-one priority is a happy, satisfied customer,” Schwartz says.
Most of the wood comes from local, sustainable sources. Every once in a while, Schwartz will have a request to make furniture from wood that the customer provides. He’s also been known to add a finishing touch to pieces that others have made.
“I’ve had some people who built their own table and they just want an epoxy poured on top of it,” he says.
One of Schwartz’s favorite parts of the business is working with the individuality of each piece.
“I love it,” Schwartz says. “I just love the way that wood looks.”
As the business grows, Schwartz hopes to eventually build a larger workshop with an attached showroom for finished and unclaimed pieces, as well as the various available slabs for making furniture.
To view some of the pieces Schwartz has created, visit Unique Furniture online at customuniquefurniture.com. To order your own signature piece, call 574-773-2846.