Green

Old materials transformed into new furniture

Friday, December 02, 2011

If you're in the market for new furniture, you might think twice about what you consider ''new.''

One organization hopes you will opt for pieces that are "reclaimed."

The Delta Institute is a non-profit agency that looks to find creative ways to boost a green economy in our area. With their latest venture, they are also getting into the business of style and design. They might even be able to help you bring a little touch of "green" into your home.

This is a story about second chances. These builders are part of a nine-month long job training program sponsored by The Delta Institute, a non-profit agency that helps create green jobs.

"Our program is designed to serve people with barriers to employment, primary people with criminal records," said Delta Institute's Elise Zelechowski. "It's a great opportunity for them to learn how to write a resume, show up for work, communicate with each other and just really be part of the workforce."

But they aren't the only ones getting a "do over." They are learning to make furniture using materials deconstructed from old Chicago homes and businesses.

"The first thing that I actually made here was a bench, and I was actually amazed at how quick it sold," said program participant LaWhite Tate.

The furniture line is an outgrowth of The ReBuilding Exchange, another project of The Delta Instiute.

"The ReBuilding Exchange was really built to create a marketplace for reclaimed building materials. Forty percent of what ends up in our landfills is re-usable building material," said Zelechowski.

Here you can find old tubs, appliances -- almost any household item you can imagine -- including the so-called old growth lumber used to build the homes that were taken down.

"We end up with this 100-year-old-growth wood that comes from much bigger massive trees with tighter growth rings," said job trainer Blake Sloane. "The wood is stronger and therefore better to make furniture with."

All of the furniture has a story of its own. The legs of one table were once banisters from a stairwell and there is a table that was once part of the gym room floor at Loyola University.

"Sometimes a door is reused as a door. Sometimes a door can be reused as a table," Zelechowski said. "And so what we're trying to do is be creative with how we reuse materials."

The ReBuilding Exchange will be hosting its official launch of the new furniture line at its high design holiday party on next Friday, December 9, from 6 to 10 p.m. The furniture ranges in price from about $40 to $1,500.

For more details, you can visit The ReBuilding Exchange website: www.rebuildingexchange.org.

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