Black is Beautiful
Issue: Issue 271.5
Posted Date: 4/1/2011
"When I was young," the owner of the eponymous Mark Roth Co. explained, "my mother always told me beauty is only skin deep. It's what's inside, which you can't see, that really matters. I took that to heart, and when I started doing woodwork, I realized the same adage was valid there."
What does he mean by that? Simple. Mark chooses the flashiest, most heavily figured woods, like zebrawood, rosewood, cocobolo, and quilted maple, to fashion typical household furniture. He makes some chairs, but mostly tables, bookcase and various cabinets. What's different about his work is that he paints all his pieces solid black.
"Granted," Mark admits, "you can't see, or even know for sure that beneath your sleek black table is an explosion of figured and colored wood, but that, to me, is the real beauty of it. I know, and I trust my customers know, that the real beauty of the piece is hidden, but nevertheless there. You and guests to your home may see only the simple black lines of a table, but you'll know the true beauty that lies within.
"For each piece I make, I spare no expense in acquiring and choosing the most dramatic and well matched pieces of gorgeous wood. I build solid furniture with simple lines using traditional joinery. Once it is done and sanded, I paint it solid black.
"The thrill I feel once the paint goes on is a combination of typical pride and that giddy rush of knowing a secret. It's almost a religious experience. Looking at a finished piece is like seeing only a thick quilt on a bed, but knowing Elle Macpherson is sprawled naked beneath it."
Of course, I had to ask Mark if he ever cheats a bit, using plain wood below the paint. "Absolutely not," he retorted somewhat angrily. "That would be a betrayal of both my customers and myself. My business, like my work, is built on faith and trust; there are just some things you must believe without ever being able to see them."