Touring George Nakashima House, Workshop & Studio

Travel

On the tour, visitors get a chance to see inside the George Nakashima Arts Building in New Hope, Pennsylvania.

You may already be familiar with George Nakashima furniture if you’re a fan of the American craft movement or a regular viewer of Antiques Roadshow. You can find the groundbreaking furniture designs of the celebrated American architect and woodworker in countless homes and businesses. His unique and highly modern pieces are exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, over 200 pieces are in a Nelson Rockefeller home as well in Kentucky Knob, the home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for I. N. Hagan. Today, his family run the furniture business from the George Nakashima workshop and studio that he set up in New Hope, Pennsylvania, in the 1940s and 50s. Half the year, they offer tours of the George Nakashima house, workshop, and studio. It’s a unique behind-the-scenes experience in these carefully crafted items.



Outside of the George Nakashima showroom, workshop and studio in New Hope, Pennsylvania.

About Woodworker George Nakashima

George Nakashima was born in Spokane, Washington, in 1905. Early on, he focused on design. He earned degrees in architecture from the University of Washington and, later, M.I.T. Nakashima traveled extensively, visiting France, Africa, India, and Japan. While in Japan, he worked on the Imperial Hotel for architect Antonin Raymond and in India he built an ashram.

By the 1940s, Nakashima had returned to the United States and was pursuing furniture. That all changed in 1942 when Nakashima, his wife and their daughter were interned at Camp Minidoka in Idaho. Remarkably, Nakashima used that time in the camp to learn about traditional Japanese carpentry from another man interned.

The following year, Nakashima was released from the camp under the sponsorship of Raymond. The family relocated to New Hope and Nakashima established his studio and workshop on Raymond’s farm.

Touring George Nakashima House, Studio & Workshop

New Hope, Pennsylvania, sits about 30 miles (roughly 45 minutes) north of Philadelphia and only a stone’s throw from New Jersey. Even without the Nakashima studio tour, New Hope makes for a great day trip.

My husband, a big Nakashima fan, and I took part in the first Nakashima studio tour of 2017. The tour lasted more than two hours and included an inside look at buildings that are normally not open to the public.

At times, the tour was like a game of musical chairs. Visitors took turns sitting in all of the different Nakashima chairs that were on display, eager to try them out. I especially appreciated Nakashima’s architectural designs. Several of the buildings feature large windows. The windows let so much natural light stream in as you look over the wooded property from a comfortable, handmade wooden chair. It’s a wonderful spot.

Outside of the George Nakashima studio in New Hope, Pennsylvania.

About the Tour

The tour provides more than just a behind-the-scenes look at the manufacture of Nakashima furniture. There are fourteen buildings on the property. George Nakashima himself built many of them over the years. As part of the tour, visitors get to see inside eight of the buildings. Several of the buildings are part of the US National Register of Historic Places and the property is a National Historic Landmark. The Conoid Studio, for example, was built in 1957. It features a reinforced concrete shell roof that is only 2.5″ thick.

The tour is a real family affair. George’s daughter, Mira, led the tour. She’s a talented and dedicated architect in her own right. Mira’s brother, Kevin, and her daughter-in-law also took part in the tours. To say that the family were generous with their time was an understatement. They answered every question asked by the inquiring minds of roughly 30 visitors.

If you can’t make the guided group tours, you’re in luck. Nakashima hold open houses every Saturday afternoon. Open house visitors can see three of the buildings (Showroom, Conoid Studio and the Finishing Room). Tours do fill up quickly so reserve your spot ahead of time.

Whether you’re a fan of George Nakashima, architecture or design, a tour of the Nakashima Workshop is more than worth the time.



Getting to the George Nakashima House & Studio

The George Nakashima house, workshop, and studio is just south of downtown New Hope, Pennsylvania, between Routes 232 and 32. The estate is in a residential neighborhood with limited parking on-site. The lot is heavily wooded, making it easy to drive past and miss it.

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Woodworker George Nakashima is celebrated for his American craft furniture. Visitors to New Hope, PA can tour George Nakashima House, Studio and Workshop. #newhope #visitpa #buckscounty #ExploreInBucksCo #nakashima

All photos, as well as all opinions, are my own.

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9 thoughts on “Touring George Nakashima House, Workshop & Studio

  1. This looks like a great tour for fans of architecture of any type. How long should one allow to visit, as I see the tours are two hours? This looks like it could easily be an all day affair. Great tip on reserving a spot ahead of time to avoid disappointment.

  2. My brother and brother-in-law are both architects, and I’ve first come to know Nakashima’s works through them. I visit New Hope a lot, but have not been to his workshop. I’m going to make sure to see it on my next visit!

  3. Such an interesting experience not many people would think to partake in. Love that it’s all family-led — thank you for sharing and putting this on my radar!

  4. Never heard of George Nakashima, but I live around 90 minutes from New Hope. Great how his family is involved in the tour.

  5. I would like to schedule a guided tour (for 2) of the studios and buildings – how do I go about doing that?

    Thank you – M. Flecker

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