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Lumber from Detroit's vacant buildings used to create made-to-order furniture

Kevin Borsay, James Willer are owners of Workshop in Detroit

DETROIT – Trendy designers like using reclaimed materials but two Detroiters are doing even more -- salvaging lumber from Detroit's abandoned homes and turning eyesores into customized furniture.

"Deconstructing houses and going after the structural lumber something that is traditionally missed in most salvage operations," James Willer said.

"But if the house is deconstructed, taken apart piece by piece, that is the material that we use to build our furniture," Kevin Borsay said.

Borsay and Willer are the owners of Workshop in Detroit. The idea was to create made-to-order furniture using lumber from Detroit's vacant and abandoned buildings.

"What's the philosophy of using that verses just getting lumber from a lumberyard?" Mitch Albom asked.

"Most of the world's forests have been, you know, clear-cut already, so this old growth lumber, you know, has a cultural and historic character to it that we find is important to salvage," Willer said.

"You are keeping a tree from being cut down to make new lumber," Albom said.

"True," Borsay said.

"So you are saving the planet?" Albom asked. Borsay and Willer laughed.

Saving the planet and preserving Detroit's history are only two of the many missions that Borsay and Willer are on.

"You know, and one of the most important ones is creating jobs, especially here in Detroit, and deconstruction puts ten times as many people to work and that is just on the physical act of deconstructing," Willer said. "Once we get our hands on it, we create more jobs by adding value to the materials by turning it into furniture."

"We put a stamp on the bottom of each table and it identifies the house in Detroit where the lumber was reclaimed from, so in a sense when you are buying a table, you are getting a piece of Detroit history," Borsay said.

From deconstruction to reconstruction, Borsay and Willer are designing pieces of history in the heart of Detroit.