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Wood leaf table in the Hanson home

Featured Article

Adding a Leaf to the Kitchen Table

This work of art beckons family and friends to celebrate life around the kitchen table.

Article by Donna Prevedell

Photography by Steve Palmer and Danny Zofness

Originally published in Kirkwood City Lifestyle

Steve Palmer first fell in love with woodworking in his high school industrial arts class. While most of his classmates were making birdhouses, Steve made a bar for his dad’s basement with drawers and sliding doors. His fascination with woodworking never abated but had to coexist as a hobby during his career as a mechanical design engineer. Now that Steve has retired, he’s a furniture maker with a burgeoning client list in several states, teaching stints at nationally renowned craft schools, and third- and fourth-generation furniture designs on his drawing board.

“At first, I outfitted my shop with hand tools,” he recalls. “I began to try to build pieces of higher quality and increasing complexity." His work included cutting boards, decorative wall art, three-dimensional bent wood tree sculptures, and elaborate jewelry boxes. “Eventually, I filled a spare bedroom with my work since I had to make room for pieces exhibited in a few galleries,” Steve says. 

Participation in local and regional juried arts and crafts shows followed. He also juried into The Best of Missouri Hands, creating more exposure. Steve says, “In my designs, I attempt to create a piece that is both functional and elegant while maintaining the focus on the beauty of the wood. All of my work is made using domestic hardwoods and is constructed using the finest of joinery. Each piece is heirloom quality.” 

Steadily he has also built a business doing private commissions for a growing list of clients in the St. Louis area and beyond. His attached garage is filled with woodworking equipment and a state-of-the-art 3-D CAD system. “I love the challenge of fulfilling people’s dreams,” he says. “It’s fun and exciting and challenging to keep meeting new clients and transforming their visions into reality.” 

Today he is deep into a collaboration and a commission for his friends, Kirkwood painter and volunteer par excellence Mary Hanson and her husband, Dave. Initially, Mary fell in love with one of the first bent wood trees Steve created. She bought it and became inspired by it, leading Steve to slowly conceive of a second, then third, and now the fourth generation of the design. In the meantime, the Hansons hired Steve to reface their kitchen cabinets with “clean and clear” maple that was chosen for its added quality of chatoyancy. The French word refers to the shine of a cat’s eye. This quality in wood is a reflectance that is only seen from a certain angle. Their collaboration continued with a Steve-and-Mary-designed custom easel for her studio. The Hansons also fell in love with one of Steve’s three-dimensional tree sculptures, and Mary challenged him to create a larger version. A three-month experiment ensued as he learned to transform ever-larger pieces of straight wood into curving forms. The results: his trees—some doubling as lamps—have become best-sellers. 

Steve has just completed the Mary-inspired, Steve-designed table that puts a flat, seven-part, leaf-shaped table top over a trestle substructure. “The shape of the top is very organic,” says Steve. The grain of each of the seven fused and tapered pieces of wood radiates out from the center where they join. The finishing touch is a black epoxy inlay, which represents the veins of the leaves. “In the concept sketch Mary suggested a huge vertical bent wood tree in the framework center,” he says. “So the table has two focal points: the seven-part, pieced leaf top and the vertical tree rising from the framework center.” Steve is delighted with the process and the product. And he is happy that over the past 11 years he has been able to transition to full-time woodworking and larger, more ambitious pieces. “By doing commissions, I am continually faced with new ideas and challenges. These are exciting in a fun way,” he says. He prefers to construct one project at a time, though he also enjoys simultaneously doing the design and CAD work for the next projects in line. He welcomes the expansion of his client list as well as the scale and complexity of his creations through repeat requests and referrals. But he’s not planning any big changes in equipment or location. “I want to keep it fun,” he says. “I’m getting that out of the special and unique challenges like the Hansons.” Steve can be reached at

  • Wood leaf table in the Hanson home
  • Wood leaf tree base
  • top of the wood leaf table
  • Leaf table top pieces
  • layering the wood for the tree base
  • Leaf table top drawing
  • dove tail and joinery for the base