How It's DUNN

We use only the finest materials in our handcrafted pieces.  It is our philosophy to deliver products that reflect our commitment to nature, craftsmanship, and good design, letting you indulge in your DUNN pieces for many years to come.  

This page provides an overview of the unique characteristics of each material and the techniques we use in the creation of our pieces. Natural materials and handcrafted pieces have an imperfect beauty, otherwise referred to as “natural variations.” Please browse the following sections to learn more about these variations.  

At the bottom of this page you can purchase finish sets. Each set comes with multiple finish samples that are individually labeled for your specification purposes. Other materials and finishes are available for custom orders (additional fees may apply). Please contact us for custom requests.



Wood is one of our most abundant and renewable resources.  It can be composted, returning to the earth, or its by-products, such as sawdust and chips, can be used for making other products like wood stove pellets.

There are three cuts of timber: plain sawn, rift sawn, and quarter sawn.  Each has its pros and cons to consider in the design process that will affect the aesthetics of the grain characteristics, the wood’s expansion and contraction, the ease or difficulty of machining and working the wood, the structural integrity of the joinery, and how the piece will accept finish.  Each style cut produces some waste, though plain sawn is generally considered to produce the least.  As a company that values sustainable and responsible practices, we tend to use plain sawn as much as possible.

Plain Sawn, Rift Sawn, Quarter Sawn


In woodworking we consider wood to be a living thing even after it is harvested and dried.  You can think of it like a sponge that is always trying to reach its equilibratory moisture content.  

Humidity changes regionally and seasonally.  As the humidity in the air lessens, so does the moisture content in the sponge, and the sponge shrinks.  If the humidity in the air increases, so too does the moisture content in the sponge, and the sponge expands.  

In woodworking we consider this to be the wood’s movement and it is important to take into account when designing wood furniture.  This movement is what eventually causes timber to bow and warp.  We employ woodworking techniques that control and minimize this movement in our pieces.

At DUNN we work with the following domestic hardwoods.  Other woods are available for custom orders (additional fees may apply):


The most common species of Walnut in North America is the Black Walnut.  The coloration of the heartwood, or the centermost portion of the tree, ranges from tan to deep chocolaty brown.  The sapwood, or outermost and youngest portion of the tree, is a pale yellow.  Walnut is an abundant hardwood in North America; however, it grows more slowly than Cherry and Oak and, if harvested early, produces only narrow boards containing minimal rich, dark brown coloration.

Walnut is easy to work with; relatively stable, enduring only minimal seasonal movement; cuts and sands evenly; and finishes nicely.  


Cherry exhibits beautiful colors and grain patterns, making it widely used despite being less available in large boards and less abundant than Walnut and Oak.  Cherry is photosensitive: when initially cut it is a pinkish-yellow hue;  but, with exposure to sunlight, cherry darkens to a reddish brown and grows richer in color over time.

Cherry is very workable, experiences mild seasonal movement, and finishes beautifully. However, we do not recommend its use as a base-wood for staining because stains can penetrate unevenly.


White Oak

Oak is abundant in North America, containing several hundred species.  We most commonly work with White Oak.  White Oak is lightly brown in color with some yellow or green hues. It is very durable - so much so, in fact, that it was the lumber of choice for old wood frame boats, whiskey and wine barrels (also adding flavor to its contents), and a smart choice for wood flooring.

Oak possesses favorable woodworking qualities, though is much harder and denser than Walnut and Cherry, making it slightly more intensive to work with.  It has mild seasonal movement and finishes beautifully, though sometimes absorbs more finish than other woods due to its higher grain porosity.

Our woodwork is sealed with oil-based finishes.  We offer two series of finishes: NATURAL and TONED, explained below.  Other wood finishes and colors are available for custom orders (additional fees may apply).  For commercial applications, we recommend that you request our custom, water-based polyurethane blends, as they are better suited for more frequent use and cleaning.

Oil-based finishes accomplish two things: they protect the wood and they nourish it, allowing the wood to expand and contract seasonally while sparing the finish from cracking over time.  Though oil-based finishes can provide a thinner layer of protection than finishes that sit on the surface, they soak deep into the wood, protecting the pores and bringing out the natural beauty of the wood’s grain, producing a rich and desirable look.

NATURAL is our purest line of wood finish.  The finish is hand-massaged into our choice domestic hardwoods: White Oak, Cherry, and Walnut.  The NATURAL finish produces a satin luster and highlights the particular characteristics of each type of wood grain.  This finish is oil-based, mixed with a combination of drying agents.  Many oil-based finishes use drying agents that can release volatile organic compounds, referred to as VOCs.  Our finish is unique because it contains zero VOCs.   

TONED is our tinted line of water-based wood pigments sealed with an oil-based finish.  It is hand-applied to White Oak and then left to rest until all the excess moisture has dried.  The colorant has a slight translucency, allowing the grain characteristics of the White Oak to show through.  White Oak is an ideal candidate for wood pigments owing to its large pores, which allow the wood to absorb the greatest amount of colorant.  The colorant is then sealed in with topcoats of oil-based finish.

Seasoned Black, Weathered Grey, Vintage White



Our metal pieces employ a wide range of techniques, including metal bending and welding, laser cutting, spinning, casting, and machining, all of which help achieve our design aesthetic of simple, clean lines.  We emphasize working locally, with the majority of our metal manufacturers located within a 30-minute drive of our Rhode Island studio.  Before any metal parts can receive their finish coatings, the surfaces need to be treated, whether they be brushed or polished surfaces.

METALLURGY refers to our line of metal finishes and includes plating and powder coating.  This range of finishing techniques helps our line of products meet the needs of diverse settings and projects.  In addition to our standard offerings, custom metal plating finishes and powder coating colors can be achieved (additional customization fees may apply).

Plating, known in the industry as Electroplating, is a process in which two metal pieces are placed in a bath.  One piece is usually an ingot - or block - of the desired metal (for example, brass or nickel); the other piece is the part that will be plated in that metal.  An electrical current is passed through the ingot, known as the anode, and received by the part, known as the cathode.  During this exchange, the anode dissolves, travels through the solution, and is deposited on the cathode, creating a coherent metal coating.  The part is then sealed with a durable, clear-coat finish to protect it.  Our plated finishes include Brushed Nickel, Brushed Brass, and Oil-Rubbed Brass.

Brushed Nickel 

Nickel is a silvery-white metal, also known as atomic element number 28.  It naturally resists oxidation and shows little aging over time, retaining its brilliance.  After plating, the metal is sealed with a durable clear coat to protect the parts.

Brushed Brass 

Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc.  It can be mixed in different ratios and incorporate other alloys to achieve desired characteristics, ease of machining, corrosion resistance, and degrees of elasticity and strength.  The coloration varies based on the ratio of alloys, ranging from yellow to red-brown hues.  Our brass is actually a combination of gold and alloys, as gold possesses more favorable plating properties.  For this reason, our brass finish favors a yellow shade.  After plating, the metal is sealed with a durable clear coat to protect the parts.

Oil-Rubbed Brass 

To achieve our Oil-Rubbed Brass finish, the metal is first plated with brass, and then a patina is hand-applied.  This process creates a rich darkness with hints of subtly revealed brass. Due to the nature of the hand-applied patina, this finish contains some natural variations.  Following the rubbed process, the finish is sealed with a durable clear coat to protect the parts.

Powder Coating is a technique in which metal parts are suspended in the air, then sprayed with a polymer powder until fully coated.  While still suspended, they are rolled into an oven and baked.  The baking melts the fine powder and it becomes one fused surface.  This technique can only be applied to parts that have little to no friction in their application.  For this reason, some metal lighting designs are offered in fully powder-coated finishes, while others are offered in partially powder-coated finishes with brass or nickel accent pieces.  The accents are not coated because they are moving parts susceptible to wear, thereby risking chipping on the powder coated surface.

Our two standard powder coat colors include Black Poppy and Country Cream, both with a satin sheen.  We can also produce custom colors to meet your individualized needs (additional fees may apply). 

Black Poppy, Country Cream



Glassblowing is a highly skilled craft, and we collaborate with a myriad of New England glassblowing studios to produce our glass pieces.  In these studios, artisans mix raw ingredients, then melt them together to make glass; more commonly, though, they melt ‘cullet’ (glassware with defects from other industries) in a furnace.  The glassblower gathers glass from the furnace onto the end of a blowpipe and forms a bubble in the glass by blowing through the pipe, inflating the bubble until it reaches the desired size.  From there, the glassblower may use shaping tools to work the bubble into a desired shape, or may continue to inflate the bubble until it conforms to a mold of the desired shape.  After crafting the shape, the glass is removed from the blowpipe and placed in an annealing oven, used to cool the glass slowly, preventing it from cracking under stress.

The glass is now “cold-worked,” which refers to the grinding, sanding, drilling, polishing, and other techniques that can be performed only after the glass has fully cooled.  The combination of hot-forming and cold-working in our designs embodies the DUNN philosophy - the interaction of organic forms with the precision of industrial machinery.

We currently produce glasswork in two colorways: Smoke Grey and Opal White.  Glass that is hand blown has slight variations and may contain small bubbles, which is part of the hand-blown process.  

Our Smoke Grey glass is translucent, allowing you to see the elements inside the shade while polarizing the bulb and diffusing the light.

Our Opal White glass has depth and greater opacity, lowering your visibility of the elements inside the shade, while creating a diffused light with an orange-pink glow throughout the entire shade

Smoke Grey, Opal White

It is difficult to reproduce the quality of our glasswork in a small sample. For this reason, we do not provide a sample kit for these materials.  However, we are happy to lend our shades, on deposit, to parties interested in borrowing them to ensure they will meet the needs of your project.