Re-Claimed and Re-Purposed: Saltaire’s Unique Furnishings are Fun and Functional
By Marcia Bradford, Condo Owner Magazine, February 1, 2014
When Rhea and Dwayne Brown were unable to find the unique types of furniture they were seeking for their Orange Beach, Ala. home, they decided to make it themselves.
Dwayne put his creative ideas together with his technical skills to design and construct a table using reclaimed wood. In a short time, he was building other items, such as hutches and day bed frames. Rhea, a talented seamstress who loves the texture and appearance of fine linens and other natural fabrics, made table runners, pillows and draperies.
Once friends and acquaintances saw the finished products, they began to request their own custom-made furniture and accessories. Additionally, the Browns talked to people in the furniture business and found there was a market for what they wanted to do.
“We knew that “different” sells, so we decided to take a leap,” Rhea said. “We married our skills and started a business.”
Since it opened in April 2013, Saltaire Restoration, located on Highway 59 near Foley, Ala., has provided a showroom where the tables, hutches, daybeds and other furnishings can be displayed. It also allows the Browns to feature unique items for the home, such as glass and shell artwork, lanterns, chandeliers and candles.
It’s clear that their concept has caught on, as customers from across the gulf coast visit the store seeking unique items for their homes, condos and offices.
“When you make a purchase of something as significant as a big piece of furniture, it should be something you truly want, not something that sort-of meets your needs,” Rhea said. “What we have found is that there are many people who share our desire to have furniture from solid, reclaimed woods and to have the pieces custom-made to fit properly into specific areas of their homes.”
Dwayne pointed out that the various woods used in Saltaire’s custom furniture come from many sources, including Sinker Cypress from the Louisiana swamps and Heart Pine that is more than 100 years old. Old shutters and other items recovered from demolitions of old buildings in New Orleans and other locations are used in the creation of hutches. Dwayne said he loves the fact that each piece has withstood the test of time, carrying with it a great sense of history.
A variety of finishes applied to the various types of wood provide additional character that makes each of the products unique. Dwayne uses a variety of non-toxic stains and paints that are reminiscent of old wooden boats or older homes in places like Key West.
Locally Made, Environmentally Safe
Among the many aspects that set Saltaire’s products apart is that all the furniture and most of the accessories are made locally, at a manufacturing site in Foley. Dwayne and Rhea are proud to employ local workers and strive to “be as green as possible.”
“We use all real wood in all of our items, they contain no resin or MDF (medium-density fiberboard),” Dwayne said. “Our supplies come from architectural salvage and even the accessory items containing plastic are created from recycled materials.”
An example of this is the glass art created by Mary Hong of Grayton Beach, Fla. Each piece, whether a large wall hanging or a small shelf decoration, is made using recycled or reclaimed glass, shells and jewelry.
Then green approach to interior design is further emphasized by CeCe Caldwell line of paints and finishes available at Saltaire. According to Rhea, these products are “100 percent naturally green, making them people and earth friendly, and they are made in America. They contain no volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), are non-toxic and odor free because they are made from minerals, such as clay, porcelain clay, and chalk blended into a water-base solution.”
She further pointed out that the paint’s self-priming, superior adhesion means that most surfaces don’t require a prep coat of primer prior to painting. Additionally, both the paints and natural wax products from CeCe Caldwell are packaged in recycled plastic containers.
Space to Share Ideas
The showroom not only displays Rhea’s talent at creating attractive decor, it’s also helpful to the local focus of the business, providing a place where people can view the items Dwayne has already built and order similar pieces that are custom-made to their own specification.
“A lot of people bring pictures in to provide an idea of what they want,” Dwayne said. “All of the furniture we make starts with CAD (computer-aided design) drawings.”
He added that he is always open to ideas. When a customer came in seeking a toy box made of reclaimed wood and safe for kids, Dwayne created a triangular shaped box with ropes to open and close the doors, a top surface made from reclaimed cypress logs, and a chalkboard on the outside.
Rhea said she enjoys having people come to the store for the variety of classes that are offered on painting and finishing furniture and creating glass art.
“The classes are informative, but fun,” she said. “We can help people re-imagine and re-purpose old furniture, learn about painting and finishing their interiors, or create new works of art.”