Near and Dear
Robert Santee can’t shake the furniture bug.
Photo by Lance Yamamoto
Robert Santee started in the trades at age 12, thanks to the influence of his general contractor father. Ever since, he has held some kind of construction job, even while at San Francisco Art Institute.
Santee applied those skills to his first Bay Area residence, circa 2000 on Treasure Island, improving the small laundry room that served as his bedroom by building “a loft bed with storage below, a wardrobe, a standing desk, and some shelving. I even replaced a door to the exterior with a window so I could have some natural light,” he said. “I made cutouts in the drywall for little storage nooks.”
Santee improved his skills, worked for a private developer, became a licensed general contractor, and started Santee Design Build Studio where his clients and projects were mostly kitchen and bathroom remodels. But something was lacking.
Santee ultimately began suggesting to clients that he build custom pieces to go along with the home renovations.
“I found the furniture to be the most interesting aspect of each project, and I caught a bug.”
Santee landed a gig with a local hardware dealer and helped establish a mill for the company’s clients. He also built out Proposition Chicken in San Francisco. Now he works building custom furniture at Santee Design Co. in West Oakland.
Inspired by minimalism and nature, he prefers salvaged wood and works with the its natural peculiarities, turning rough cuts into sleek dining tables, bars, cabinetry, mailboxes, and even smaller items like cutting boards and jewelry.
His latest favorite project is something close to his heart: a necklace he designed and made for his wife, for the birth of their son and first child. The claro walnut necklace looks like a delicate sculpture, but upside down, it spells out their son’s initials.
You get the sense that Santee holds everything he works on near and dear.
Find Santee Design online at SanteeDesign.com or @santeedesign on Instagram.