Scope your favourite coffee shop or microbrewery or your hipster bud’s Main Street loft, and you’ll find that, when it comes to interiors, reclaimed wood has long been a thing.
But the organic material doesn’t just look great: it’s also an ingenious way to prevent perfectly good lumber from rotting away in landfills.
That’s the thinking behind the Wood Shop, a Vancouver-based startup that sees reclaimed timber as more of a lifestyle than a trend. Born out of Groundswell Grassroots Economic Alternatives’ social-venture program in 2013, the company was founded by Chris Nichols, a former construction worker who was stunned by the amount of wood being trashed in the industry.
“That really sort of spurred him to start thinking about how much wood waste is really being produced in Vancouver, what’s being done with it, and how he could start a conversation about wood waste and what he could make out of it,” Jessica Valentine, co-owner of and builder at the Wood Shop, tells the Straight by phone.
Fastforward three years and Nichols’s humble quest has evolved into a full-fledged business with four employees and a loyal clientele of interior designers, businesspeople, and homeowners.
Working with a mattress-recycling company, the Strathcona Business Improvement Association, and local arborists and construction workers, the Wood Shop upcycles discarded maple, fir, cedar, and more into furnishings and décor items that range from the warm and rustic to the polished and high-end.
Stripped-down mattress frames are broken down and fashioned into storage-equipped bed frames, bookshelves, and growler carriers; cast-off pallets are repurposed as stylish record crates and roomy dining tables; and century-old timber from residential tear-downs and renovations is resurrected as benches, trunks, and serving platters.
Many of the items may be customized and the Wood Shop also produces commissioned pieces for those seeking specialty fittings without compromising their commitment to green.
“People should be able to have a choice about how they purchase, what they purchase, and who they purchase from,” explains Valentine. “And in particular, what those materials are that are going into their homes.”