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Go natural with your furniture this spring

Natural furnishings made from reclaimed waste have a broad appeal


PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: DEAN BAKER - Mike Heuser of Witness Tree Studios shows his wood works. Some of his works can sell for up to $5,000. Reclaimed wood is the taproot of Michael Heuser’s business at Witness Tree Studios south of Portland.

He makes furniture from sustainable hardwoods. It’s sandblasted to a finish that glows. He’s one of dozens of artisans who work “green,” using materials that once would have been burned as firewood or tossed into a landfill.

In his workshop in rural south Portland, Heuser showed a black walnut slab 10 feet by 50 inches wide, built for a Portland family of five.

The tree grew in the Molalla area. He showed another 13-foot black walnut table designed for a business conference table on the east coast. And he displayed a collection of smaller tables, benches, desks and cabinets.

“Some, I guess, would call my wood reclaimed,” said Heuser. He’s been fashioning major artistic pieces in Portland for the past five and a half years and for many years before that in Wisconsin.

“This kind of stuff I’m building now doesn’t sell in Wisconsin,” he said. “Too conservative there. They like oak and maple and just stain it. So I like it here.”

Mostly, he uses black walnut to build tables of all sizes and shapes. It usually takes six or eight weeks to finish a major table.

His unique tables range from $3,000 to $10,000.

“The material I use is from trees that are harvested locally and for some reason have to be taken down — maybe they are damaged or sick or too close to a houses. It could be because they are diseased. They could be in the right-of-way.

They could have gotten too big and too close to a home or building. So instead of firewood they become beautiful furniture.”

He ships his work far and wide.

“The most famous one I did was for Lucas Films about a year and half ago,” he said. He never met George Lucas or any Star Wars characters. “I didn’t even know who it was for, until I got the check and the address.”

He sells some furniture through Eclectic Home, a Northwest Portland store, he said. Some furniture he sells through local art shows, but mainly he works by direct commission from his shop at 6219 S.E. Queen St.

“I do most of my work through my website. People just show up at my shop, finding the address on the Internet.”

It’s a pleasure to use reclaimed materials, he said.

Furnishing a home with reclaimed and natural materials has great appeal, said Dennis Rose, owner since 2006 of Eclectic Home at 2259 N.W. Raleigh St.

He and his staff sell naturally sourced goods. They handle natural fiber rugs, tables built from old barn wood to bunk beds from scrap lumber, natural fiber mattresses, and works of art.

What all the goods have in common is the use of natural materials, Rose explains.

He steers clear of the word “organic,” in favor of words like “natural,” or “made locally” or “reclaimed materials.”

“The concept of a healthy home is not a new idea,” Rose said in his promotional material. ‘Green’ building is a huge industry that has matured over the past decade.”

He said the use of the term “green” has been applied to building styles, but can also be applied to materials inside the home. He pointed out it’s sometimes impossible to trace the materials used in home furnishings, but he strives to move in that direction, favoring green materials and local artisans, but sells goods from all over the world, from Australia to Germany.

Eclectic Home handles organic and reclaimed goods including furniture from Witness Tree Studios, recliners by Himolla from Germany, leather furniture from Bracci in

Italy, Against the Grain sustainable rustic Douglas fir

furniture from Oregon, and goods from Greenington, Maku, Maple Corner, Maria Yee, Vermont Furniture and other builders.

These products are not cheap. Prices takes can range up to $5,000 for a leather couch or an oak table.

There are beds and mattresses, comforters, pillows, a variety of rugs, lighting, screens and paintings.

Overall, selling green materials is an art and takes constant vigilance, Rose said. The term “organically crafted furnishings” is an advertising tag line, he said. He’s a no-nonsense businessman simply trying to promote sustainable living.