The Simplemente Madera store is full of furniture and wooden objects that are rarely purchased directly from the Managua venue, but more often selected as part of a furnishing package for a whole home. These furnishing contracts, which sometimes include interior design, are mostly for Nicaraguan houses and hotels, but also many projects in the US and Costa Rica, and normally last from one to six months, depending on the scale. Unless the project can fill one of their shipping containers, which are 20 ft2, Simplemente Madera doesn’t send furniture to the US. One of these containers can fit enough material to furnish a three-bedroom house, so the company is mostly concerned with high price-tag clients.
Simplemente Madera Group
What a US homeowner will normally do is send SM a blueprint of their house and select from a line of products in the SM catalogue (Mombacho is currently the most popular, with natural deformations in the wood). Then the designers at SM will fit the furniture to the house and the style and send the homeowner some sketches. Some people want a more hands-on approach and pay to bring a designer to their house in the US. Simplemente Madera designers also often make custom designs for clients according to their requests.
Here is the second installment of the Simplemente Madera factory tour. Below is a video of the production line in the workshop–watch for the Ocean Green surfboard at the end!
Up next is a written and photographic swing by the Simplemente Madera store in Managua.
Pierre and I left Morgan’s Rock on Friday to go visit the Simplemente Madera factory outside of Managua. It is a huge facility that receives wood almost entirely from fallen forests on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua that were destroyed by Hurricane Felix in 2007. We took a tour with one of the quality inspectors, who showed us around the plant and explained every process the wood went through from log to rocking chair (most of these steps are for another post). The following video covers the initial drying the timber must go through to make it the highest quality wood available. The best part of this process is that it is completely sustainable — it only uses open air and scrap wood! Please give the video’s subtitles some time to load, unless you speak Spanish.
Here is an additional picture of the scrap wood and a view of the six closed drying ovens, which are often rented by other woodworking companies to dry their wood, since nobody else in Nicaragua has the drying capacity of Simplemente Madera.
The finca connected to Morgan’s Rock, part of the Agroforestal forestry business whose owners also run MR and SM, is in the process of clearing the brush covering a large swath of land where new trees will be planted. The trees are going to be more separated than in the past so that more of them can grow to full potential faster. Some of the previous plantation plots have suffered from underdevelopment as a result of too much competition between cramped trees. As a result, these confined trees grow straight up and don’t mature in width as quickly, staying thin and branching upwards to reach the sun. One of the positive effects of this growth is that the branches are very straight instead of curvy, but there is less wood. Over the years the finca has planted over 1.5 million trees for harvesting, and 100,000 for reforestation.
When I arrived at the new plot of trees, Israel, supervisor of the workers clearing the land, showed me the distance difference between saplings, marked by long wooden stakes in the ground already cleared. There would be about a meter more between each tree and row. He pointed to the plantations on our right and started saying the names of different trees interspersed in the endless rows. “Caoba Africana, roble, cedro.” African Mahogany, oak, cedar. Other semiprecious-wood trees in the plantation are teak and pochote, which is covered in stubby spines from top to bottom. Every now and then I could see a tree with a yellow line painted on it, marking it for cutting in the coming months. Israel told me that at the moment they are culling about 20% of each tree plantation to promote the growth of healthy trees and cultivate wood for Simplemente Madera. This amounts to roughly 500 trees for each plot where healthier trees are busy growing to optimum maturity. A potential project would be following one of the trees marked for culling through the steps of cutting, processing, preparing, and buying; in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” Michael Pollan followed a calf from youth through fattening, slaughtering, processing, and the final consumption.
“Simplemente Madera,” which means “just wood,” is a Nicaraguan sister company to Morgan’s Rock that primarily uses sustainable wood sources—one of them is the tree plantations at Morgan’s Rock—certified by SmartWood according to the criteria set by the Forest Stewardship Council, an international NGO that sets standards for sustainable forestry worldwide. Providing furniture and architectural services, the company helped design and furnish Morgan’s Rock, and provided most if not all of the woodwork in several Nicaraguan houses and hotels.
Collaborating with the World Wildlife Fund and International Finance Corporation, in 2005 SM worked with a Nicaraguan indigenous community to develop the inspiringly magnificent One Tree program influenced by a similar project in the UK. SM is also attempting to salvage wood felled by Hurricane Felix and provides wood and carpentry services to the eco-surfboard company Ocean Green (which now offers 15% off your surfboard if you book a stay at Morgan’s Rock).
Based on fairly thorough browsing, the SM website hasn’t been updated since 2008. Keeping the information current would help make SM a more relevant member of the online carpentry community and generate further popular publicity for Morgan’s rock.