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Turning the Tables
Carrie Storke Williams | Photo: Melissa Valladares | January 31, 2014
Craftsman Sam Fitch can make an old fire hydrant a thing of beauty for your abode.
Sam Fitch’s “when life gives you lemons” story goes something like this: After 20 years building some of SoCal’s largest commercial real estate projects—from apartment complexes to restaurants—the recession hits, and Fitch is forced to close his construction company. Rather than surrender, he and his wife, Tracy, salvaged what they could—literally. They reclaimed the Louisiana Pine wood planks from their firm’s scaffolding, as well as the metal racks their employees used for painting, and forged a line of tables from the two elements. In the process, the couple created a new business, life and beautiful trend in home decor.
Now, three years later, the Fitches’ Lake Forest firms, Planks USA and their new residential furnishings design unit, Planks 10, are renowned for crafting unique tables, seating, doors and architectural details that both capture and shape the industrial-chic look. “We’re creating works of art that can’t be found in retail chains,” says Fitch. “We’ve built a niche by blending wood and steel to create sustainable furniture that elevates any space.”
Through Planks 10, the Fitches are adding richness to residences throughout O.C. and the West with their handmade patina pieces forged of wood, steel and industrial artifacts. When it comes to vintage finds that become building materials, everything is fair game—old buoys, Singer sewing machines, even fire hydrants. That’s because customization is a mantra to Fitch. “When I was a kid, I always wanted something cool, new, different,” he says. Planks 10 clients have this same desire for bespoke design. “[They] want something no one else has—and I never want to lose that personalization.” Clients can visit Planks’ showroom for inspiration (although floor samples are available for purchase), and then Fitch and his team develop sketches for approval prior to building the designs. Among the most popular requests in O.C. are tables created by sandwiching wood between steel plates, which allows for a further level of individualization, like the incorporation of a family crest. Custom tables can be had for $2,500 up to about $5,000.
Beyond the home front, Planks USA—the side of the business now devoted to designing interiors, furnishings and fixtures for stores and restaurants—is making a name for itself. Chef Gordon Ramsay tapped the division to create furniture for his eatery, The Fat Cow, at The Grove in L.A. Another noted chef, Michael Mina, also called on the Fitches to outfit his dining concept, The Handle Bar, at the Four Seasons Hotel Jackson Hole. A just-completed project of pride is The Park Showroom at the L.A. Mart, where the firm has partnered with a clothing wholesaler to create a hybrid furnishings and apparel retail experience, as well as an event space—a concept that Planks USA plans to expand as far as New York. In O.C., Fitch is working with the owners of Wild Goose Tavern on adding to its look and feel—and that’s a reason to pull up a chair to the bar and celebrate!
Sam Fitch photo shot on location at the Park Showroom in Los Angeles