Beautiful furniture from reclaimed materials

comments (15) March 13th, 2011 in blogs

AsaC Asa Christiana, Special Projects Editor, Fine Woodworking magazine
thumbs up 37 users recommend

Matthew Holdren built The Kerlerec Desk from recycled heart-pine floor boards. The drawer knobs are porcelain insulators from old electrical wiring.
William Roberts built Bone Bench from plywood salvaged from construction sites.
John Robert Portman built Lathers Table from lath boards used in old walls.
David Bergeron built this versatile cabinet, called Books or Booze?, from beadboard he pulled from a trash pile.
Four Legends Console is a collaboration by Benjamin Bullins and Linda Berman. There are found objects in the base, and the top is raku-fired low-relief sculpture with images of jazz legends.
Ross Lunz built this chair, called Mobile, from discarded street signs.
F. Scott Greenfield started with an old B&W picture of an oil refinery when he built this bench, called ReFinery. Also in the backrest is flocked wallpaper and balusters from torn-down houses. The rest of the bench is made from red pine from old barges.
John Robert Portman also made this framed, illuminated wall piece, called 2914 Royal Street.
Matthew Holdren built The Kerlerec Desk from recycled heart-pine floor boards. The drawer knobs are porcelain insulators from old electrical wiring. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

Matthew Holdren built "The Kerlerec Desk" from recycled heart-pine floor boards. The drawer knobs are porcelain insulators from old electrical wiring.

Photo: Sara Essex Bradley

With most woodworkers looking back 100 years or more for inspiration, I often wonder where furniture-making is headed. In an increasingly mass-produced world, will we ever see a definable furniture "period" emerge again, or will the world continue to buy cheaply made products and pitch them into landfills?And what kind of furniture-making will captivate tomorrow's generations? Somehow I doubt it will be yesterday's dovetailed, wood-only approach. And maybe that is just fine.

An answer to all of those questions is emerging in a trend toward taking old, discarded materials and reclaiming them to make new pieces of useful art. Look at Make Magazine for lots of examples, and then Google "steampunk" to discover a whole other approach to making something new from the past.

My favorite example of this trend is happening in New Orleans, where an up-and-coming furniture show, called "Salvations," is up to 50 entries this year, each made from reclaimed and salvaged materials. The winners haven't been picked yet, but the organizers let me show a few of my favorites. Look for one or two in a future issue of FWW magazine.

Some are just knocked together, with an emphasis on concept over craftsmanship, and some of you won't like a furniture approach that favors art over utiility, but I find the work thought-provoking. I'd love to have a few of these pieces in my house, and I'm tempted to build some myself. Are you?

Also, do you think this emerging trend (if it is one) could coalesce into something solid and "sustainable"? I look forward to your comments.



posted in: blogs, table, chair, cabinet, bench, desk, chest


Comments (15)

shatzie shatzie writes: i see the style that Christiana is going for here when he lists a few of his favorites, but furniture made out of reclaimed often is automatically thought of as shabby chic and kitschy. I myself,(and a few others in this competition) actually use reclaimed as a superior material to make sleek contemporary pieces with an eye for detail and craftsmanship. i think the readers were done a disservice to not be shown the other side of the coin. Anyone interested can check out www.recycledcypressnola.com
Posted: 11:30 pm on April 11th

Livermore Livermore writes: I really like seeing the recycled wood projects, hope to see more. I have been doing Green before there was a Green, making me King of Green. For the past 15 + years I have built my art furniture business around recycled woods and vintage material. I not only use this material,I am inspired by it, it has shaped my inter-eye to see the possibilities, but Art should follow function any furniture needs to work. You can see my work and see if I am KING of Green by going to my web sight; intothewoodsstudio.com Working Green and loving it, Larry
Posted: 12:58 pm on March 26th

Rinias Rinias writes: I agree with Char50 - in my opinion, re-purposing should be seem more skilled than taking old stuff and a hot glue gun. That being said, I don't want to underestimate the work that went into these pieces, some of which I find pleasing and others look uncomfortable/unpleasant.

We have a green (read re-purposed/reused) building supply store nearby, which has a page of customer creations. Have a look :

http://communityforklift.com/creations.cfm
Posted: 7:34 am on March 25th

aronde aronde writes: A Dutch designer, Piet-Hein Eek, is already making for years furniture from reclaimed scrapwood, now on an industrial scale. But still interesting to get inspired. Go to http://www.pietheineek.nl/en/collection/scrapwood
Posted: 3:54 am on March 25th

andrecarpentry andrecarpentry writes: I've used a very similar technique to great effect, making tables, chairs and coffee tables. Check it out http://andrecarpentry.com/

All the plywood I used was headed for the landfill. For example, A friend of mine had some art shipped cross country, leaving him with empty plywood crates 7 feet tall and 10 feet wide. I "harvested" the ply and made a chair and a nightstand.

It looks like this was made using a C+C machine to great effect. It's structural, architectural, and artistic. Is it comfortable? I wonder. Regardless, I really like this piece.
Posted: 11:20 am on March 24th

Char50 Char50 writes: Don't get me wrong, I'm all for re-purposing and re-using wood, but why do a lot of the pieces have to scream "look at me, I'm made from old stuff from a barn or garbage bin!"

I was NEVER big on "shabby chic"...to me it just says, "I'm too lazy to refinish the wood"

It could also mean a danger to children and pets since the "shabby chic" items generally feature peeling and flaking paint which could contain lead (if the wood is really old).


Posted: 8:20 am on March 23rd

thebigvise thebigvise writes: Oak shorts discarded by flooring contractors are a useful source of material. I could afford to use virgin lumber all the time, but I get an added level of satisfaction making something beautiful and useful out of wood that would otherwise have gone to the landfill.
Posted: 8:06 am on March 22nd

thebigvise thebigvise writes: Oak shorts discarded by flooring contractors are a useful source of material. I could afford to use virgin lumber all the time, but I get an added level of satisfaction making something beautiful and useful out of wood that would otherwise have gone to the landfill.
Posted: 7:58 am on March 22nd

Vermont_Dan Vermont_Dan writes: A great article, I would love to see more examples of reclaimed or salvaged materals.
Posted: 4:37 am on March 22nd

gparas gparas writes: I find these inspiring. I'm constantly amazed at what gets discarded that can be re-purposed into useful items. I try to get every last use out of left over wood or old furniture that may be in need of repair or maybe just "updated" with paint.

Thanks for the article.

George

Posted: 2:17 pm on March 21st

Sodabowski Sodabowski writes: I've done a few furniture items out of pallet wood, so I'm quite familiar with repurposing old wood, but the items from your small selection blew me away! That metal chair is particularly incredible. Thanks for the heads-up.
Posted: 3:26 pm on March 16th

linber linber writes: Thanks for the correction
Posted: 1:57 pm on March 14th

MlynKerny MlynKerny writes: Thank you for a great article that features an event that gains in popularity every year. A well deserved shout out goes to The Green Project - a nonprofit recycle store that hosts the "Salvations" event every year. They are a hands-on organization that promotes the creative reuse of salvaged bldg material and recycled paint.
Posted: 11:40 am on March 14th

AsaC AsaC writes: Sorry, Linda. I'll correct the blog. Great work.
Posted: 8:48 am on March 14th

linber linber writes: This piece is a collaboration by artists Benjamin Bullens and Linda Berman. The top is my work (Linda Berman)It is raku fired low relief sculpture. Images are of John Coltrane playing sax, Miles Davis playing trumpet, Max Roach on drums and Jelly Roll Morton playing piano.
Posted: 11:55 pm on March 13th

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