While wandering through the Guggenheim Museum, we stumbled on its third floor cafe with a spectacular view across Fifth Avenue to Central Park. Even better for us: its Bauhausian tables and chairs made from Baltic Birch, one of our favorite materials. Because the plies or layers, are thicker and have no void, the exposed edges look great.

Just looking at the photos of the utterly simply designs give a sense of how to duplicate them. The bases for both stools and tables are wood slabs placed at 90′ angles to each other to form a strong support.


Sally Schneider / Improvised Life

The tables use two sandwiched plywood sheets for extra thickness. The stools use 3/4-inch Baltic Birch.

Sally Schneider / Improvised Life

Since unfinished wood eventually shows wear as it does here, we would have found a way to seal the wood if left natural, most likely by using a waterbase polyurethane. But we can imagine the simple shapes painted primary colors. (Small versions could be made for kids…)

We never know where we’ll find an idea to steal…


Woodworker Source had a good overview and sources for Baltic birch:

Baltic birch’s core is unlike traditional plywood you may be used to seeing: the layers of inner plies are 1.5 mm-thick solid birch veneer, cross-banded, and laminated with exterior grade adhesive.

One of the fortunate benefits to Baltic birch, too, is that you can leave the edges exposed if you like the look. Because the core is free of voids and all birch, the exposed edges sometimes have an appearance that works for the project, and this saves you time and material—no need to spend time and effort on applying edge tape or solid edge banding unless you want to. Simply sand and finish the edges as they are. The face and back can be stained when you need a different color.

With close inspection of Baltic birch, you should notice that the face and back veneers are remarkably thicker than the veneers you’ll see on traditional cabinet-grade plywood.

If you’ve found illumination, joy, or inspiration in this post, please consider supporting Improvised Life. It only takes a minute to make a secure donation that helps pay our many costs. A little goes a long way towards helping Improvised Life continue to live ad-free in the world.

Support Improvised Life ♥

2 replies on “Guggenheim’s Clever Baltic Birch Tables and Chairs

  1. Very nice! The stools in particular look like something from Hennessey and Papanek’s Nomadic Furniture.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *