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  • Behind The Design
May 26th, 2016

Meet the Maker – Alec Waters

Alec Waters is standing in the 30,000-square-foot Ethan Allen photo studio in New Milford, CT, telling secrets: He’s revealing his part in making beautiful rooms come to life. Today, a photographer is shooting down from a loft space, camera fixed on a podium, aimed at a raised platform below, where an area rug lies perfectly flat, under lighting that is perfectly even. Alec explains how they built the platform to facilitate shooting the heavy rugs (and rigged it to fold up against the wall when not in use).

Another day. Another problem solved.

Alec, 56, is one of two carpenters who build room sets—movable floors and walls, faux millwork, windows without views, stairs to nowhere, and more. It’s an early, critical step in the complex process of creating imagery for the company—for the web, magazines, and advertising—that shows products, tells a story, and evokes a lifestyle.

“It’s all make-believe,” Alec says with a smile.

A master woodworker with a degree in structural engineering, Alec took an interest in timber framing early in his career, which led to a job at Fine Woodworking magazine. There he honed his skills in the woodshop, but also had an opportunity to write and take photographs, which he enjoys. Later, he started his own business, and after doing some freelance work for Ethan Allen, he was hired full-time in 1996.

He has seen many changes—in design trends, art direction, and photography—over nearly 20 years with the company. “There are definitely cycles in this business, just like in life,” says Alec. “We used to shoot more whole rooms, but now we’re doing more details … we’re scaling things down to show a sense of place.”

Alec, who has two sons in their 20s, lives in CT, but he spends as much time as he can at the log cabin he built himself in northern New Hampshire, which he describes as “a dream come true.”

He sees his job as the best of both worlds: “It’s both creative and analytical,” he says, and he appreciates the diversity. “This is the longest I’ve ever been at a job,” he says.

“If at any time I don’t like what I’m doing, all I have to do is wait two weeks—and we’ll be doing something completely different!”