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Old Becomes New Again

  • Linda Platts
  • The latest trend in furniture appears to be environmentally sound, remarkably inventive, and priced considerably higher than the wares at Pier 1. Coat racks made from steel rebar, light fixtures from wooden pallets, and headboards from rusty garden gates are all the rage. This reclaimed-object furniture was once the decor of necessity for struggling college students and newlyweds. Today, however, it is found in stately homes next to the Queen Anne-style table in the foyer.

    A gnarled log attached to an old drive shaft provides just the right touch and connection to the past, according to one proud owner of reclaimed-object furniture, and it is reasonably priced for this individual at $2,300. A popular rocking chair known as the “RE-TIRE” chair has a wooden frame and cleaned, recycled strips of old tires for its seat and back. The selling price is $1,200 from Metaform studio (www.

    Part of the cost stems from the amount of time it takes to locate previously used objects. Time must be spent roaming beaches, garbage dumps, and city streets to find the appropriate castoffs. Other materials come from Asia. Farm implements used during the 1940s and 1950s in Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand are in high demand as are reclaimed floor boards made of teak. In other instances the materials are more readily available. These include sunflower hulls, which are mixed with resin and pressed into tables, or the excess mahogany left over from guitar-making.

    One company is actually making money from money. It buys shredded currency from the U.S. Treasury, mixes it in a water-based slurry and presses it into a table selling for $825. Other designers use newer materials, but just visualize them in a different way. The “Bungee Cord Chair” is woven from the stretchy cords and the “Pipe Dream Sofa” is made from galvanized pipe sold at Home Depot.

    Many of these unusual furnishings are available online, and the Furniture Society, a trade group of independent craftsmen, reports that its membership has grown tenfold in less than ten years. Even though the furniture is pricey, the “green” marketing hook draws many people to these unique styles created from ordinary materials.

    —Wall Street Journal



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