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Butterflies in Wood: A Tradition + Trend Coming Back

by Grace Bonney

One of my favorite aspects of design is seeing how trends come and go and come again over the years. Decorative details that have their roots in the distant past come back in cycles as newer generations discover them and fall in love for the first time. We’ve seen this happen with so many design patterns, colors and techniques, but lately it seems that butterfly joints have become a go-to detail in the woodworking that fills shops and online stores everywhere.

A butterfly joint is a traditional joint used to connect wooden boards or prevent further splitting in already damaged boards. There are few skills and trades as old as woodworking, but its recent resurgence in popularity (in both professional and hobbyist forms) means that people are rediscovering techniques and tools with fresh eyes. I’ve enjoyed seeing butterfly joints pop up in just about every form, from functional uses in furniture to decorative metal detailing in high-end pieces and cutting boards. Whether you’re learning about butterfly joints for the first time or are continuing to enjoy their beauty and function, I hope these pieces will inspire you to try them in your home. Click through for 15 beautiful examples of butterfly joints in contemporary wooden designs. xo, grace

*Want to try making your own? Check out these two tutorials to learn.

Butterfly Joints in Modern Design | Design*Sponge
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Ariele Alasko's incredible bread/serving board with butterfly detailing.
Butterfly Joints in Modern Design | Design*Sponge
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A brass butterfly detailing being placed by Sentient Furniture.
Butterfly Joints in Modern Design | Design*Sponge
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Black walnut table by Pasadenaville on Etsy.
Butterfly Joints in Modern Design | Design*Sponge
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The Stitch Table by Uhuru Design of Brooklyn, a modern spin on the traditional butterfly shape.
Butterfly Joints in Modern Design | Design*Sponge
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A live-edge table with butterflies by Live Edge Design.
Butterfly Joints in Modern Design | Design*Sponge
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Ariele Alasko's petite bread/serving board with butterfly detail.
Butterfly Joints in Modern Design | Design*Sponge
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Sentient Design's butterfly-detail table, up close.
Butterfly Joints in Modern Design | Design*Sponge
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Butterfly Joints in Modern Design | Design*Sponge
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Butterfly Joints in Modern Design | Design*Sponge
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A modern (and romantic spin) on butterflies, in the form of X's and O's by Nicholas Purcell at Christine Austin Design.
Butterfly Joints in Modern Design | Design*Sponge
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An amazing butterfly joint in a public bench at Qualico Family Centre Park.
Butterfly Joints in Modern Design | Design*Sponge
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BDDW's walnut slab coffee table with butterfly joint detailing.
Butterfly Joints in Modern Design | Design*Sponge
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A sweet, tiny butterfly detail on a stool from from Roost.
Butterfly Joints in Modern Design | Design*Sponge
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Ruyi Melbourne Dumpling Restaurant in Melbourne designed by Hecker Guthrie (Photo by Sharon McGrath for Remodelista).
Butterfly Joints in Modern Design | Design*Sponge
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Dining table with butterfly detailing by Dancing Grains on Etsy.

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Comments

  • Oh jeez, Grace, thanks for reminding me of Ariele Alasko’s work. I think I first learned of her here, but that was awhile ago when she was mostly making furniture and art. Her carved pieces and the various cheese/bread/cutting boards are to die for.

  • Ah if only this had been posted a month or two ago – it took me ages of creative google search terms to find out the proper name of this joint! I’m in love with this inverted live edge table from Graham and Green stitched together in the middle with butterfly joins. I think its the perfect balance of nature, design and craftsmanship. Unfortunately its far too large for my tiny dining space but I’m hoping to find a local furniture maker to create a scaled down version of the top but with a slimmed down wood base:
    http://www.grahamandgreen.co.uk/the-sylvester-dining-table

  • Really great selection, love to see the traditional and more modern uses, as well as repair vs. joinery. And the metal ones! Also, thanks for the link for DIY. Well explored and delivered, and appreciated on my side.

  • Thank you for profiling one of my Pasadenaville tables, Grace! It’s a absolute honor to be profiled on your wonderful and awesome site. Butterflies are something that I enjoy working on and they just bring a different perspective and beauty to a wood furnishing. Not many things come to mind that perform a dual role of being both functional and decorative like a butterfly joint, and the fact that they are done exclusively the old fashioned way, by hand, it just lends a custom crafted feel to whatever piece or furnishing they’re a part of.

  • great post! I love this type of joinery coming back…just noticed it today on this awesome table at my local Wegmans grocery store of all places…one more reason to love Wegmans!

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