Enter your email address below and you will receive an email with instructions to create a new password.
Born in the Southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, Maria Yee grew up dreaming of studying physics and the home and furniture she would have. Little did she know she would become an eco-design pioneer and established her namesake furniture company in Scotts Valley, California in 1988.
Her design journey began in the early 1980s in Beijing. Maria studied classical Chinese joinery with a master craftsman who restored furniture for the Forbidden City. Throughout the exploration of antique furniture, she was amazed by the creativity and the craftsmanship of solid hardwood joinery. The three-dimensional interlocking techniques would enable architecture with wooden structures lasting for thousands of years.
Through her visits to museums and treasured collections Maria fell in love with the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) elegant and timeless furniture art forms. She was proud of what the old masters had achieved.
After moving to California in 1988, Maria decided to introduce antique reproduction furniture from a small Beijing workshop to the US.
Her first customer was Gump’s San Francisco. Founded by Gertrude Gump and her husband in 1861, it attracted the attention of the then newly minted millionaires from the 1849 California Gold Rush. Gump’s proffered old-world artifacts with exotic and new world designs. The tradition of excellence is still alive today.
Gump’s customers took to Maria’s furniture immediately. Some of them had homes far from San Francisco. However, Maria soon found herself confronted with issues after issues as the seasons changed. Some furniture began to warp, crack and split, especially in New York, Colorado and Alaska.
Trained as a mechanical engineer Maria knew submerged wood would expand and contract if then dried. She was sure weather had something to do with it and proceeded to gather as much data as possible.
Maria plunged herself into the history of joinery furniture making in China. She analyzed the raw material, design and production technique. Finally, an unmistakable theme revealed itself: Solid hardwood furniture was custom made close to the home!
With characteristic Maria Yee energy and enthusiasm, she spent the next 10 years redefining and reengineer the joinery techniques. The result is her proprietary system aptly named BreathingJoinery™ which capably stands up to the driest deserts and the wettest rainforests.
Simultaneously Maria started to modernize the Ming designs to complement the California contemporary life styles. Her comfortable, ergonomic furniture became sought after items not just in San Francisco, but throughout the US and Canada.
Over the course of 3 decades, she would operate her own factories and nurture her own design studio. Her tables and chairs would become best sellers, be they handcrafted in solid hardwood, BambooTimbre™ – the first industrial strength furniture grade bamboo, or the state-of-the-art steel and leather.
In 2006, she successfully introduced a large BambooTimbre™ furniture collection to the North American market. She was also among the first to offer rich and beautiful water-based finishes in 2008.
Maria’s commitments to the environment and society propel her pioneering efforts to certify her companies in China and the US, thus for the FSC® Chain of Custody in 2008, ISO 9001 in 2008, ISO 14001 in 2010, and SA8000® in 2018.
Today, Maria continues to work with her brand, focusing on the care of the employees, customers and her craft.
All elements matter – from responsibly managing forests, fostering new growth to ecologically produced luxurious leathers to meticulously hand forged metal pulls. The brand works hard to sustainably source quality materials and to apply insistently honed techniques to breathe new life into classical craftsmanship.
Maria believes continuous improvement is key. She abides by the ideal that each conscientious step from each of us will bring everyone a little closer to the holistic wellness of all.