For generations, wood has been the material of choice for home construction in South Asia. In addition, dwellings have been filled with wooden furniture pieces with intricate carvings like stories. In recent times, the ancient artisan tradition of wood carving and painting has been threatened. War and poverty have forced many to leave their ancestral homes. The abandoned wooden interiors of these homes are removed to be sold for little profit or burned during the bitter mountain winters. In the place of handcrafted wooden pieces, the younger generation is drawn to less expensive furniture made of plastic and metal.
Behali’s furniture, made from this “rescued wood”, ranges between fifty and 200 years in age. Once these pieces served as a family’s cupboards, pillars, doors, window frames, and storage boxes. As the carving and details are preserved, the wood is restored to new life, and this is the very meaning of the word behali.
It was fifteen years ago that a single family began collecting abandoned pieces of rosewood and pine. They then hired skilled craftsmen who, in the ways of their fathers and grandfathers before them, redesign the old wood into something new. These men painstakingly restore the rich colors and rework the carvings to create striking new pieces of furniture. Along the way, they also preserve the untouchable artistic heritage of an area where South and Central Asian cultures met and flourished, high up in the mountains.
Behali furniture is more than simple wood. Those who buy Behali furniture cherish it as beautiful in its own right but also see it as a treasure trove containing the memories of those who made it. The pieces tell the stories of men that have long since been forgotten.