The Story Behind Our Moran Furniture


At Moran Woodworked Furniture, wood matters. And Pappy Van Winkle white oak barrel staves have a history unlike any other. So, collaborating with Michael and Celia at Moran Woodworked was a natural fit. Known for their traditional craftsmanship and unique pieces, Pappy & Company is proud to share the story behind our three new pieces straight from the makers themselves.


In our 12 years of business, we’ve worked to distill down the most fundamental ideas our handmade objects — both bespoke and limited edition — must encompass. At its most basic, there are three interconnected values:

  1. Use traditional joinery and craftsmanship to build pieces that will last for generations to come.
  2. Commit to using wood that comes from responsible sources, and in doing so, protect and honor trees as a vital and beautiful natural resource.
  3. Design with a considered, modern aesthetic.

As partners in life and in business for almost eight of those 12 years, we have quite literally built our workshop in the woods of the Hudson Valley, far from our Southern roots. Michael grew up just a handful of miles from those unique waters that have produced Pappy Van Winkle bourbon for the last four generations.


Projects, such as the one the Pappy & Company Van Winkles’ brought us, are exciting and full of new challenges. American white oak Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels remain the most difficult to date. First and foremost, this is because every essential aspect of the stave — bent shape, thin width, charred interior, liquid saturation — is quite unusual for us. It quite literally already looks like something other than part of a tree; its barrel qualities became simultaneously our challenge and our inspiration.

Opening that first box of bits of bourbon barrel was a moment of trepidation. It also was one of olfactory pleasure. Our shop has held the deliciously pervasive smell of bourbon and oak sawdust since.

We often begin our process by selecting a single board of wood and letting it dictate the resulting design, but this stave wood would call for a deeper understanding of the material. It required us to actually start to work with the staves in order to find what could be possible. Design would have to come with time. And thus, it was experimentation that produced each of our designs.


Uncovering the wood dowels that held each round, cracked (from being saturated in bourbon and then dried out) barrelhead together ultimately led to its reconstitution as a flat table surface. It is, like the original, planed, similarly joined and routed, retaining its identity and marks of use in each filled dark tapping hole.

For the lamp, it was attempting to flatten out on the widest staves by planing down thin layers of the concave curve that gave us a glimpse of the charred black shadow that exists when most of the surface is flat.

The chair might not exist if the shear strength and relative consistency of the long stave curve hadn’t been noted. While still being unquestionably a chair, its design is predicated on it remaining more stave-like. The gentle curve keeps the original routed ends to maximize length, comfort and flexibility, and the contrast in color is derived from the original char.

For each of the three designs, the final component for this modern conversion was the addition of solid, unlaquered brass in both structural and aesthetic aspects. In this conversation and juxtaposition between metal and oak, we honor the Van Winkle family memories of ornate, heavy, old brass keys locking the distillery doors after a family visit.

We hope to have found balance and inspiration in keeping essential natural characteristics of the barrel while reinterpreting each aspect anew. With this project we were investigating reuse through a new lens; trying to hold an attentive conversation between the history of use and the language of modern, fine furniture. Pappy’s simple, uncompromising descriptor “always fine bourbon” held us to account for quality as we crafted each Moran Woodworked Furniture object for Pappy & Company.

From our hands to your home.

Celia Gibson and Michael Moran
Moran Woodworked Furniture