09 August 2008
Posted by Paul Anater at 6:55 AM
Sandwiched between Chelsea, Union Square and Gramercy Park is the Manhattan Center for Kitchen and Bath. It is the Mecca of my profession and it defines what a kitchen and bath showroom should be. I walked through its hallowed doors for the first time about four years ago and thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Of the many beautiful things I saw there, one that stuck out more than anything was a counter top made from zebrawood. In fact, here's a photo of the MCKB's showroom and I'll give a quarter to whoever guesses where the zebrawood counter is.
Prior to that, all I knew was that zebrawood was an exotic hardwood and that it was really expensive. I assumed that it was expensive because it was rare and I didn't give it a whole lot more thought. After having made my pilgrimage to the MCKB and seeing how gorgeous a counter made from it is, I started talking up zebrawood like a mad man. At the time I worked at a ridiculously fancy schmancy design studio and I used to specify zebrawood just because I could.
Then I actually looked up what zebrawood was and I learned that zebrawood is expensive because it's rare all right. And it's rare because it's an endangered species. Zebrawood is actually Microberlinia brazzavillensis, a tropical hardwood from Gabon, Cameroon and the Congo. It is not harvested in anything close to a sustainable manner and its popularity is hastening its demise. Ever since I got the straight dope about zebrawood I got religion about it and it is now first on my verboten list.
But leave it up to the geniuses at Smith and Fong to come up with a replacement. Their product Plyboo Neopolitan is a dead ringer for zebrawood only it's made from bamboo. An untrained eye could never tell them apart, and this trained and discerning eye has a hard time. The stuff's great and it represents what the idea of sustainable building products is all about. It's not about doing without. It's about doing things smarter. I have another quarter for anybody who can guess where to buy Neopolitan. Can't think of it? Click here.