Lara Knight – 13 February, 2020
I love that Australian makers are embracing the challenges and charm of demolition salvage. Heritage timbers, and all their repurposing possibilities, should never be sent to landfill.
Creative clients must also be acknowledged for commissioning work that inspires change.
Ben from Woodkeeper Furniture in Brookvale transported recycled hardwoods just a few kilometres for this sweet little kitchen, and we know it will inspire many with it’s casual simplicity.
You believe in local recycling and were at the Whale Beach demolition collecting timber. Does that happen often and how does it come about?
I source all my recycled timber from local demolition sites. Many companies throw it all straight into the skip bin ready for landfill. There’s a handful of local demolition companies who take the time to salvage good, reusable materials from their sites. It’s not as simple as buying timber from the local hardware store, which I think might deter a lot of joineries. But I think the extra effort creates a really unique product, and the whole idea of reducing landfill waste, and reducing building materials is a really worthwhile endeavour.
When you include building strip out, denailing and machining, reclaimed timber is more labour intensive for makers than new. What do you see as the advantages of second-hand timber?
I’m not involved in the actual salvage/strip out of the timber, that is done by the demolition company. It is a bit more labour intensive working with recycled timbers, but the end result is so unique and beautiful that people are willing to pay a little extra for it. Especially when it has a story, and I can tell people where their timber was actually sourced from.
What was the client brief for this project?
Rustic, free standing kitchen bench, using recycled hardwood throughout. The client’s house had a real ‘old school shack/beach house’ vibe, so they wanted a rustic style kitchen to go with it. The fact that I was able to source the timber from a site only 2km from their house, really added a nice sense of local history to the piece which is now a part of their home for years to come.
Solid timber can expand and contract more than engineered cabinetry. How do you allow for movement in doors and drawers?
Allowing for timber movement means that you just have to take the time to manufacture solid timber furniture properly. Letting the timber settle into the workshop environment, machining it in stages as it moves/warps, building expansion joints and properly sealing all timber, ensures that it lasts a long time.
Woodkeeper Furniture started with DIY pieces to fit your own apartment. Are custom designs for tricky spaces still a specialty?
Yeah absolutely, that’s the benefit of having things made bespoke. My customers come to me because they can’t find what they are looking for in the right style and right dimensions in a shop. We work together to make their ideas come to life, and they are part of the design process throughout. I merely facilitate and guide that process until they are 100% happy that their piece will look amazing, but more importantly is functional and works within their space or home.
You recently had an 18 month gap living and travelling overseas. What did you bring back from that experience?
Yeah I moved with my partner to London. It was a bit of a shock to the system having lived in the Northern Beaches for the last 10 years. On a personal level, I learnt just how lucky I am to call Australia home, especially where I live in Manly.
I worked for a commercial office furniture manufacturer, where I became involved not only in manufacturing, but also the production and project managing side of the business. I learnt a lot about working with and managing a large team of makers, and about productivity in a large scale joinery.
The whole European furniture industry though is full of over designed, overly complicated and ‘showy’ furniture design. So I definitely took away a stronger resolve for the value of simple, well built and great looking furniture.
The movement in eco friendly design, reducing waste and utilising local materials and manufacturers was strong in the UK too. Europe in general is so far ahead of Australia in this regard. I found that really inspiring, and it reinforced my desire to continue pursuing those values in how I manufacture and generally conduct my business.
Where can people see more of your work?
Yeah the website, FB and IG. But I also encourage people to visit my workshop where they can see first hand what I do, can look at the timber I use, and discuss in person their ideas for making their ideal new piece of custom made timber furniture!