In with the old, forget the new.
For my first article in Citygram, I wanted to draw from my background in designing furniture and spaces to share with you some tactics that are near and dear to my heart: upcycling and responsible design.
Those of you who know me have heard me say again and again that good design doesn’t have to be expensive. good design doesn’t have to be expensive.Good design also doesn’t have to be made from new material, nor does it have to be shipped in from overseas. I’d like to use this space to celebrate local craftspeople I’ve worked with on my projects and various ways to be responsible in the types of furnishings, fixtures, and materials you use in your own projects. Along the way, I’ll share with you some of the projects I’ve worked on as jumping-off points for larger discussions.
The first project I’d like to share with you is LENOIR.
Lenoir is a casual, prix fixe fine-dining restaurant in the heart of the Bouldin Creek neighborhood of Austin. Chef couple Jessica Maher and Todd Duplechan have developed an amazing, locally-sourced, seasonal menu based on what they call “hot weather food.” I may be biased, but I can tell you it’s a go-to for date night.
As Jess, Todd and I began collaborating on the vision for their dream restaurant, we quickly realized our mutual passion for local sourcing and decided to go as local with materials as we could. I enlisted Jesse we quickly realized our mutual passion for local sourcing and decided to go as local with materials as we could.Hartman of Shift Build to work with me on the build-out. Of the many people building local, Jesse is one of the best. To start, we focused on using recycled hardware, cabinets and lighting from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore on the East Side. (more on the ReStore below.)
We were able to work with Delta Millworks, which is also on the East Side (just down from Justine’s), to get material for cladding the walls. When Delta mills lumber, the rough edges are usually cut off and discarded as unusable material. Not this time. We created panels with the off cuts, burned them with a cactus burner and created a rich, carbonized texture. These panels now clad the soffits over the bar and community table as well as the curved wall at LENOIR.
The rest of the building materials followed suit. The custom furniture was made from framing lumber that had been salvaged from demolished houses in the Austin area. The ghost holes drilled for electrical and plumbing services are noticeable elements in many of the stools.
In the back hallway, we installed picture frames that we collected over a period of months from yard The collection of frames tells a story without even adding photographs or art.sales, thrift stores and antique/curio shops all over the area. The collection of frames tells a story without even adding photographs or art. If only these frames could tell the tales of the homes in which they’ve hung!
For the bathroom signage, we used unknown ancestral portraits, with the addition of graphite masks to conceal their true identities and protect their honor. To accessorize the back bar, we curated old blue bottles, ceramics, and blue Ball jars found during wanderings at Round Top. Joe Swec, sign painter extraordinaire, enhanced our finds with some hand-painted details.
As they say, God is in the details, and we’ve done our best to create a space that we hope will continue to reveal itself and enhance the dining experience visit after visit.
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Responsible Design Columnist
Chris McCray is a nomad designer with a focus on sustainable, responsible practices.
Chris crafts furniture and spaces with his distinct brand of reclaimed style which can be seen at popular Austin restaurants, like Lenoir and Ramen Tatsu-Ya, that are distinctly Austin.
Photography: Ryann Ford + Chris Perez