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Green Building News

The ‘Wally’ Bed: Accessorizing with Salvage

A contractor turns to furniture making using wood salvaged from old homes in the New Orleans area

"Wally," a bed created by Thomas Dutel of Dutel Custom Woodworking in Lacombe, Louisiana. The bed was among six top-finishing entries in Salvations 2011, a juried competition for furnishings made from salvaged materials.
Image Credit: Dutel Custom Woodworking

Of all the practices in the green building ethos, salvaging and recycling seem to inspire artists and artisans the most. That turned out to be true, at least, for participants in Salvations 2011, a juried competition for furnishings made from wood, metal, and other materials salvaged from buildings in the New Orleans area.

Presented by The Green Project, which sells salvaged materials and operates a recycling center in New Orleans, Salvations 2011 attracted the attention of Thomas Dutel, a former contractor who specializes in making furniture from wood salvaged from homes facing demolition. Dutel’s entry, called “Wally,” is a bed made from antique heart pine “pulled from the rubble” of homes in New Orleans’ Mid-City neighborhood. It also features wrought iron gates donated by a Mid-City resident.

Old-growth wood from old homes

Named for Wallace Thurman, a longtime Mid-City resident who resisted a redevelopment project that eventually forced him, and Dutel’s workshop, out of the neigbhorhood, “Wally” landed among the top six in the show and took its “Best Traditional Design” award, Dutel says in a press release.

He adds that with all of the rebuilding in the area, salvage opportunities are plentiful, and demolitions of old homes often yield wood whose density and strength are superior to those of freshly milled lumber. Dutel says a greater effort should be made keep this old wood – and other recyclable materials – out of landfills. “We are at a crossroads in New Orleans,” he says. “I believe we can rebuild in the same tradition of a hundred years ago, and do it in an environmentally friendly way.”


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