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Urban Tree Salvage

If a tree falls in the city, does it have to become mulch? The answer is no longer a simple yes. After a crack of lightning or a termite infestation, some trees do have to come down. And in a busy city, those fallen trees can be a big headache. Many city governments work to get rid of fallen trees as fast as possible and their removal options include mulching or cutting the trees for firewood.

But not all is lost in a growing number of cities in North America, where a host of new companies have dedicated themselves to taking the felled trees and turning them into unique, eco-friendly, and aesthetically pleasing pieces of furniture.

In Toronto, the eponymous Urban Tree Salvage is one of the leading makers of such furniture. Focusing on table and bench structures, the company also offers bulk wood slabs, custom pieces, and reclaimed barn wood.

Urban Tree Salvage almost exclusively uses trees already taken down in the city. They work closely with Toronto’s Urban Forestry Services to save of trees from the mulch pile.

Urban Tree Forge in Pittsburgh has brought the reclaimed tree trunk to an international audience. In 2009, it was selected to make the tables for the  G-20 summit in Pittsburgh — and the outcome was both green and stylish.

Reclaimed wood table at G20
Photo: White House Flickr Feed

If you have your own expertise, the Forge also includes a shared woodworking space and a “think tank” for designing and planning.

The company works with local sources, but customizes furniture and flooring based on available wood and client wishes.

And the wood doesn’t have to come only from fallen trees on public land — both Urban Tree Forge and Meyer Wells in Seattle, Washington, have made parting with a damaged tree on your own property a little less painful.

In one case, a backyard family tree with a 50-year history found new life as a beautiful dining room table with a distinctive crack in the middle, which was caused by storm damage.

“As I spend time with it, I see the beauty of the hard life the tree had,” one of the owners told the New York Times. “And it helps me find the beauty in my own life’s scars.”

Salvage wood table
Photo: Meyer | Wells

In the Vancouver area, Mike Biejlos of Enviro Tree Milling offers the service of taking the first step in the process — milling — creating useable wood planks out of fallen logs. If you’re not quite sure what you want to make with a fallen tree yet, milling makes sure the wood is saved and ready when inspiration strikes.

Some other magicians of woodworking include West Coast Wood Designs in B.C. and  — a site which features classifieds for finding millwork, planks and more.

Urban tree salvagers are true green businesses, reusing resources in ways that honor local labor and the artisanal esthetic.

*As a special Friday Bonus this article will include images of reclaimed wood that EiEi Home found at the 2012 Interior Design Show (IDS12).

Reclaimed wood art

IZM salvaged wood table

Reclaimed wood coffee tables

Reclaimed wood banquet table

By Taylor Kate Brown



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