Reworked and Repurposed: Inventive Uses for Salvaged Materials

Reworked and Repurposed: Inventive Uses for Salvaged Materials

From Trash to Treasure: The Art of Salvaging

As a child growing up in the vibrant Caribbean-influenced suburbs of New Jersey, I never could have predicted that one day, I’d be the co-founder of a sustainable design studio in the heart of Detroit, rummaging through illegal dump sites in search of overlooked treasures. Yet, here I am, constantly amazed by the hidden potential of discarded materials.

You see, my parents instilled in me a deep appreciation for creativity from a young age. They encouraged my siblings and me to express ourselves through various artistic mediums, from fashion design to automotive engineering. It was during my studies at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit that I first discovered my passion for repurposing – a revelation that would ultimately shape the trajectory of my career.

After working as an automotive interior designer for General Motors for five years, I felt a shift in my priorities. My partner, Kyle, and I began exploring the streets of Detroit on our bicycles, and that’s when we stumbled upon a goldmine of abandoned materials. Construction debris, forgotten furniture, and unloved wooden scraps littered the sidewalks, just waiting to be given a second chance.

As Bo Shepherd, the co-founder and head of design at Woodward Throwbacks, a sustainable design studio in Detroit, shared, “Illegal dumping was a huge issue in Detroit back in the day, and it’s when contractors and even homeowners would dump construction debris and unwanted materials in the street. My partner and I love exploring the city by bicycle, and that’s how we picked up materials that appealed to us.”

Redefining the Narrative of Salvaged Materials

Inspired by the untapped potential of these discarded items, Kyle and I founded Woodward Throwbacks in 2014, a passion project that has since blossomed into a thriving design studio. Our mission is simple: to redefine how the world sees reclaimed and found materials by transforming them into functional art.

Whether we’re creating a single piece of furniture or designing a full interior, the focus is always on reusing the materials that everyone else leaves behind and sharing the narrative of the materials’ past and present. As Bo eloquently stated, “The most sustainable thing to do is reuse right? Reduce, reuse, recycle. However, not everyone is educated on reclaimed materials, so you need to educate them.”

Bo’s journey from automotive design to furniture and interior design was a natural progression, and it’s one that has allowed her to tap into her innate creativity in new and exciting ways. She explains, “My aesthetic is constantly evolving. My experience working in a corporate environment gave me the discipline I needed. I am the type of person where I’m always going against the grain. I don’t like it when people say no or try to put me in a box.”

Breathing New Life into the Old

At Woodward Throwbacks, we don’t just work with reclaimed wood – we incorporate a wide range of salvaged materials, from metal and glass to acrylic and vintage textiles. Our process is unique in that we not only salvage pieces but share the story of the material in a modern and fresh way.

Take, for example, one of our favorite projects: the integration of a 14-foot hardware display cabinet from a century-old woman-owned hardware store in a Detroit neighborhood. When the store closed, we knew we had to give this piece a new lease on life. As Bo explained, “I was sad it closed because I shopped there in college. And as soon as I saw the cabinet, I knew I wanted to design a space around it.” The cabinet was then seamlessly incorporated into the kitchen millwork of a client’s loft, creating a beautiful and meaningful focal point.

Our work is not just about salvaging materials – it’s about breathing new life into the old, and sharing the stories that these materials hold. As Bo says, “Finished furniture using reclaimed wood can be clean and modern, but what sets it apart from other products is its story, the texture, and most of the time, the quality is way better.”

Embracing the Imperfections

At the heart of our design philosophy is a deep appreciation for the natural imperfections and unique character of salvaged materials. Much like the stunning “vintage reworked jacket from Peru” featured on the El Hobo website, which embraces the flaws and fading of its secondhand textiles, we find beauty in the weathered, the worn, and the one-of-a-kind.

As Bo explains, “The vintage textiles I use can have flaws, fading, etc., which I like to incorporate into the design for a natural, lived-in look. EL HOBO clothes are predominantly about the patina.” This same ethos applies to our furniture and interior design work at Woodward Throwbacks.

We don’t shy away from the imperfections; instead, we celebrate them, using them as a canvas to create truly unique and visually captivating pieces. Whether it’s a console unit made from a hand-painted wood advertisement or a custom bar cabinet constructed from salvaged church pews and historic white marble, each of our creations tells a story that is distinctly its own.

The Sustainable Edge

As the world becomes increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of our consumer habits, the demand for sustainable and eco-friendly design solutions has never been higher. At Woodward Throwbacks, we’re proud to be at the forefront of this movement, offering our clients a refreshing alternative to traditional furnishings and decor.

As Bo eloquently stated, “The most sustainable thing to do is reuse, right? Reduce, reuse, recycle. However, not everyone is educated on reclaimed materials, so you need to educate them.” By showcasing the beauty and versatility of salvaged materials, we’re not only reducing waste but also inspiring a shift in mindset.

Our work isn’t just about creating beautiful pieces – it’s about challenging the status quo and redefining what’s possible when it comes to sustainable design. Whether we’re collaborating with developers, building owners, or homeowners, our goal is to help them see their spaces through a different lens, one that prioritizes repurposing and reimagining over traditional construction and demolition.

The Future of Salvage

As Woodward Throwbacks continues to grow and evolve, we’re excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. Bo shared her vision for the future, stating, “I want to partner with demolition groups and be able to obtain materials in bulk and do large-scale limited-run collections.”

By working closely with demolition and construction teams, we hope to gain access to a steady stream of high-quality salvaged materials, allowing us to push the boundaries of what’s possible with repurposed design. From large-scale furniture and architectural elements to limited-edition collections, the future of Woodward Throwbacks is brimming with creative potential.

Of course, the journey hasn’t been without its challenges. As Bo points out, “Setbacks are inevitable, so it’s important to stay cool, calm, and collected. You must believe in your process, work, and most importantly, yourself. And most likely, you’ll get through it.”

But with a steadfast commitment to our mission and a deep well of creativity to draw from, we’re confident that the best is yet to come. The future of sustainable design is here, and it’s being forged one reclaimed treasure at a time, right here at https://timber-building.com.


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