December 28, 2013

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 17 — One way to describe the Fisher Building’s newest tenant, Workshop, is that it’s a storefront that sells hand-made modern wood furniture.

But that would be missing the point.

Workshop is all about the reuse of wood salvaged — legally — from the deconstruction of Detroit homes to create furniture that pleases aesthetically while diverting potentially valuable debris from a landfill ending. In the eyes of proprietor James Willer, every piece of wood has an inherent value that only increases with the passage of time. “Every piece has its own story, its own history, its own life,” he says. To waste that “is almost a disgrace to the industrial workers of Michigan before us.”

While deconstruction has received some attention of late, Willer has statistics that place the movement into a proper drop-in-the-bucket perspective: There have been 2,500 homes in Detroit demolished each year of Mayor Bing’s four-year term and, with 10,000 board-feet of lumber per house, that adds up to 25 million board-feet of lumber headed to the landfill each year. In monetary value, that’s $25 million a year at the wholesale price, or “$100 million that could be recouped into growing a tax base and jobs,” says Willer.

Thus, Workshop is very mission-driven: by introducing the concept of deconstruction to a larger audience in a very tangible way, a bigger market might be created for these reclaimed materials. While that’s a daunting task in this disposable world, Willer hopes that a visit to the shop, some time spent pressing the flesh of its clean-lined tables, benches and shelving, might inspire a rethinking of the typical lifespan of a piece of wood.


Workshop is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It’s located in Suite 105 of the Fisher Building fronting Second Avenue. 

This post originally appeared on the Pure Detroit Blog.