Yup, those are old freestanding phone
booth shells. I've amassed about 20 of
them with the intent of some day constructing a Herman Miller-style, wall-mounted shelving system with them.
“Collecting,” I corrected him.
“It’s collecting, not hoarding,” I said.
“Right. Of course. You make recycled furniture, too.”
I know that five 40-foot shipping containers filled with one guy’s assorted odds and ends and situated nowhere near a shipping yard would normally signal a problem, but I’m on top of it.
For starters, I know where everything is. Mostly. In one, I’m storing these massive elevator gears that have a diameter of, like, six or seven feet. Shortly, they’re going to become the base for a glass-top table. And you thought recycled furniture was an uncomfortable chair made out of a shipping crate and a burlap throw pillow.
For another, this stuff finds me. I don’t go looking for it. Squatting in my workshop right now is an old, industrial-looking work cart that I’m going to convert into a polished, industrial-looking kitchen island. I found it along the side of the road on my way to Princeton. I’m known to lever just about anything into the bed of my pickup, but this cart almost ended my reputation, and me, right then and there. It’s gotta weigh close to 300 pounds. We wrestled on the shoulder for longer than I care to admit until finally, mercifully, it tipped into place.
Most of the rest, I stumbled over (almost literally in a lot of cases) during clean-outs. Friends, or friends of friends, or even perfect strangers who’ve heard I have an eye for certain, rare (if forgotten) things and room to spare grant me first dibs when they’re clearing out their barns, attics, basements, garages, backyards, and shops.
When I first started making furniture, a little more than a decade ago now, I would make it all out of stuff I found because it was cheaper that way. At one point, it felt like all I was doing were these clean-outs, just building my inventory. Now, the things that fill my containers feel more like ideas-in-waiting.
I like to think that making recycled furniture is a break from the grind of designing original pieces. It gets me back in touch with what pulled me into this and filled me with the confidence to believe that I could design and make my own original furniture. But, really, I’m compelled to do it. Something’s always snagging my attention. From there, it’s a fast romance; I can’t help but reimagine it.
Suddenly, those five shipping containers seem like some serious restraint, right?