The Wonderful World of Charlie Baker
Charlie Baker's custom rustic designs—fashioned from driftwood and salvaged materials—have graced gardens across the country, as well as the windows of Hermès. We investigate the story behind this innovative landscape designer and furniture maker.
Growing up as the child of a garden designer and a photographer, Charlie Baker often found himself elbow-deep in the creative projects of his parents. In school, he was drawn to wood shop classes and anything else that involved using his hands. But the idea of turning that talent into a career didn’t occur to him until after college. “I wanted to be involved in film production,” Baker says. “Then I started working for a stone mason and contractor for extra money and realized I liked that more.” After stints at Ash Stone & Garden (CK) and Plant Specialists in New York, he founded his own landscape design and furniture business, Baker Structures, in 2007.
The Long Island City, New York–based Baker developed a name for himself with intricate outdoor structures and stylish furniture and accessories — custom-created designs in driftwood and salvaged materials that maintain the integrity of the natural setting outdoors or introduce nature to the indoors. In landscape, he fashions decks, pergolas and gazebos that feel fresh and organic. “I strive for a finished product that doesn’t look ‘landscaped,’” he says, “and my more natural projects are often built to look like they grew together on their own.”
Baker’s work is often labeled “rustic,” but these are no artificially weathered Adirondack chairs. Many of his creations, particularly his furniture, possess a distinctively clean edge, as in a table that contrasts a gnarled tree-trunk base with a sharply cut, square glass top. This juxtoposition of earthy materials and modern form allows his pieces to exist comfortably within a contemporary aesthetic, and has generated quite a buzz.
Over the past year, he’s crafted a chef’s table for New York’s The Breslin restaurant and devised and built the holiday window for Hermès’s Madison Avenue store (left). Baker considers the project, for which he used twigs and felled trees to depict whimsical forest scenes, to be his most rewarding. Not only was he freed by a lack of concern over functionality or building codes, but, he admits, “I enjoyed standing on the corner and watching the reactions of passersby.”
His interior pieces may be earning him acclaim, but Baker isn’t likely to abandon his landscape efforts any time soon. “There’s nothing better,” he says, “than working outside in the late spring and summer months.”
Katie Mendelson is the assistant editor of GARDEN DESIGN.