Q & A with Lee Kline, Beau Lake Co-Founder & Design Director

You can tell by looking at the Beau Lake line of products that you’re a lover of fine woodworking and being on the water.  Where does that come from?

Ever since I was a very young boy I've had an attraction and affinity to working with wood. My great-grandfather was a metallurgist and fine cabinet maker. Things he made were all around me when I was growing up. Wooden peg games, a hand-made orchestral flute in rosewood with pure silver levers and hardware, figured oak pot-bellied dressers, and even old trinket boxes. I dreamt of My attraction to deep dark woods stems from his work specifically. Add some musty smells of machine old and sawdust and I am just about in heaven.

My step father was also an avid sailor, and when I was in my early teens, we owned a few 30’ plus C&C sailboats which we kept at either Pier 4 at Habourfront or the marina at Ontario place. Waking up on a sailboat in the middle of summer and being on the water is a thing of unquestionable beauty and inspiration. You also feel like you are inside some special world apart from the rest. Like being on vacation or in an exotic place, even though you are in the city you live in. It’s an amazing feeling I will always remember.

The Beau Lake line has an interesting contrast of rich woodwork and sleek, almost ‘automotive’ touches of metalwork.   Can you tell us about that?

The combination of materials which I was exposed to, day in and day out, were wood, polished stainless steel and gel-coated fiberglass. All three of those materials as it turns out, I will have more or less mastered over the years in terms of fabrication.  Wood was the first, obviously. From the early days of experimenting in my grandfather’s garage making everything from go-carts and sculptural pieces, to guitars and furniture in my teens and early 20s. After wood came metal. Silversmithing jewelry, then learning all about aluminum sand casting for hardware for furniture designs. The extension from there was of course stainless steel fabrication and chrome plating.

 

As my furniture design became more ultra modern, I needed to free myself up in terms of form from the restrictions of typical wood and steel fabrication techniques. This lead me to learn all about fiberglass and composites, which I utilized with incredible results for a myriad of international hospitality clients. I spent years in specialty fabrication making crazy facades in the hotel foyers of large casinos in Vegas or various hotels, restaurants in Manhattan, and retailers as far away as Hong Kong.

It wasn’t until later in life that I realized I was basically doing a masters degree in all the fabrication methods necessary to make a boat. In may ways you can say that my career was a dress rehearsal for Beau Lake.

Which brings us to Beau Lake.
One day several years ago and dear friend of mine had found a manufacturer to make a container of SUP boards for is daughter to bring in and sell as a summer gig while in university. He had asked me to stick a customer’s logo on a board shape for a potential client gift. Once I had that shape in my computer, it stuck with me in my mind. Then one day I was taking a ride on a buddy’s vintage Hackercraft wooden runabout up in Muskoka as sunset. It was a stunning moment. The next day I was sketching out a SUP board that incorporated all the key elements of the boat. The wood, the metal fittings, even the upholstery.

 

All of a sudden, I realized I was designing a yacht! It was a small yacht, and a totally flat one too, but it had all the key materials I had trained all my life with and were embedded in my design vocabulary, wood, steel and fiberglass.   The sense of accomplishment far outweighed the actuality of what it was, just a surfboard. None the less, I felt so fulfilled. I ended up taking orders based solely on the design not having even prototyped one yet, and then did it again the next year and added another variation of the design.

The rest is Beau Lake history…..

 

Does Beau Lake have a design philosophy?  It seems to have roots in mid-century design...

Only in the sense that when it comes to mid-century...materials used were always honest in that they never tried to be something they were not. Plastics gave rise to provide a new vocabulary in form and function. Wood was celebrated as wood and not painted. Metals were cast into limitless expressions of form. Probably the most important signature of a mid century product would be function and purpose. There were no frills, no rococo flourishes of superfluous design. Everything, every part, every material choice, ever curve, had a reason for being. With such a naked approach to design, there was nowhere for a flaw to hide. From fasteners to finishes, every aspect was considered and streamlined. This philosophy, if one could call it that, is at the core of all that Beau Lake it. Honest, efficient, yet elegant and totally gorgeous too. Every aspect, from the design inception, through manufacturing, to the final product, is a work of art.

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