Artist uses reclaimed wood

Mandeville, LA. Contractor-turned-artist Thomas Dutel, of Mandeville, creates unique furniture from old growth wood, salvaged from New Orleans’ historic homes undergoing demolition. An example of his work is “Wally”, a bed, he created for the Green Project’s Salvations 2011 competition held in April. His design was recognized as one of the top six in the show and awarded “Best Traditional Design” out of all the entries.

Salvations is a juried furniture exhibition and auction which annually recognizes the best and brightest designs of salvaged materials turned into one-of-a-kind furnishings.

Passionate about reclaiming the wood and materials being discarded in the city’s rebuilding effort; Dutel became an ardent supporter of the environmentally focused Green Project in recent years. The craftsmanship used in his re-milling process results in unique pieces, giving the wood – some of it 200 years old – a new life.

Dutel has been a licensed general contractor building homes in the New Orleans area for 15 years. After Katrina, he began focusing on a mission to preserve the city’s architectural legacy by using materials recovered from demolitions and deconstructed houses. His salvaging efforts focus on old world cypress and antique heart pine, meticulously re-milling this beautiful old wood and turning it into mantles, stairs, floors, furniture and works of art.

The old-growth wood found in many of New Orleans’ historic homes has a greater density and strength than the wood harvested after only a few years. Even after being cut, the wood becomes harder and denser as it cures. Recycling the wood salvaged from all the demolition going on in the city could also keep it out of the landfills; Dutel wishes more of it was being saved. “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.”

Dutel was forced to move his studio/workshop from Mid-City New Orleans because of the new LSU and Veterans Administration hospital development. He has since relocated to Lacombe. He was one of many in the area upset by the destruction of the neighborhood. He named his award winning Salvations submission – The Wally Bed—in honor of Wally Thurman, who, in his late 80’s, is a preservationist and civil rights activist who fought the development in Mid-City where he was a third-generation resident.
“The Wally Bed” was handcrafted from antique heart pine pulled from the rubble of destroyed Mid-City homes and wrought iron gates donated by a Mid-City resident.
Dutel is also a Certified Green Professional , awarded by the National Homebuilders Association.

The craftsmen at Dutel Custom Woodworking hope to help preserve the architectural traditions of the New Orleans area through historic renovations and the creation of beautiful furniture and architectural finishes made from re-milled wood. Whenever possible they use recycled components, re-milled wood, and salvaged fixtures.
SOURCE: Dutel Custom Woodworking

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