On the Record
by Jeffrey Harmatz
May 12, 2009 | 17223 views | 0 0 comments | 486 486 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As a child of Brooklyn Heights, Walter Binger has spent his whole life casually observing some of the most beautiful and intricate woodwork in the United States. And it is the design and construction of these doors, window frames, tables, and chairs that Binger brings to the designs of modern restaurants and furniture.

“Carpentry is an industry based on experience,” said Binger. “My father was an architect and a preservationist, and from him I acquired a base knowledge of architecture and design that has stuck with me.”

After studying art in college, a chance visit to the studio of Sam Maloof, a noted designer of rocking chairs, inspired Binger to study carpentry and woodwork full time. His senior thesis was desk made of four different woods whose drawers must be opened in a certain sequence.

Returning to Brooklyn Heights, where he still keeps his studio, he finds inspiration in the same buildings he observed while growing up.

“It’s really the buildings themselves that make neighborhoods,” he said. “The ones in Brooklyn Heights have elaborate doors and molding that have a ‘they don’t make ‘em like the used to’ quality to them.”

Fortunately for Binger, this interest in old-fashioned woodwork is shared by a number of New Yorkers, many of whom have hired the young carpenter to design and build the interiors of their throwback-style restaurants. Two restaurants he had a hand in, Bar Stuzzichini and Lanksy’s have opened to rave reviews not only for their food but for their classic design and crafted interiors.

Unfortunately for Binger and other fine craftsmen, the lackluster economy had dramatically damaged both the construction and restaurant industry, and he is currently getting by on small private jobs. But Binger is confident that when the economy turns around, intricate and sturdy woodwork will once again be in vogue.

“There is not only a revival in the use of fine hardwoods, but wood is a renewable resources,” he said. “And it’s incredible practical and durable. There will always be a demand for what I do.”

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