GRAND RAPIDS — Daniel Chase started niche furniture maker Re.dwell LLC somewhat out of necessity.
While he was a graduate student studying architecture at Ball State University, Chase helped tear down old buildings over the summers, salvaging “everything from the houses but the roofing and plaster.” He shipped the wood items to flooring manufacturers for reuse, but always seemed to have leftover lumber.
“We didn’t know what to do with (it), so we just started building furniture,” said Chase, a Grand Rapids native.
After he graduated in the late 2000s, he faced a job market that was less than favorable for architects, so he stuck with idea of making items from the reclaimed wood at a time when consumer interest was high in that style of furniture.
“I kept building furniture as needed based out of necessity for friends and family,” Chase said. “I just put the (product) out there. At the time, reclaimed wood got really popular. It was kind of a coincidence. I didn’t see that in the market yet, but it was what we had and what we could do. People loved it.”
Now five years later, Re.dwell operates in a 7,000-square-foot building on Boston Street in Grand Rapids and employs three people. Chase splits his time between the company and working at Craig Architects Inc., also in Grand Rapids.
Re.dwell sources all of its reclaimed wood — including oak, maple, beech and other Michigan hardwoods — from old buildings, factories and farms and other found objects, manufacturing them into furniture ranging from conference tables up to 20-foot in length, bar stools, reception desks, coffee tables and dining tables. Prices for the furniture vary depending on the item, but span from $200 for bar stools to $1,500 for small conference tables.
Re.dwell generally sources the materials from West Michigan, Chase said, noting he’s picked up wood from as far away as Traverse City.
“People are always looking for old barn wood,” he said.
While he started the company when the market for reclaimed furniture was increasing in popularity, he tries not to let that sector pigeonhole his design philosophy.
“I try to keep the designs clean and contemporary,” Chase said. “Fads come and go, so we try to keep it more timeless and it can survive the rustic reclaimed wood fad.”
Re.dwell focuses on woodwork and design, while environmentally “keeping a light footprint,” he said. “We are keeping it all reused materials and materials that can be recycled.”
Some of Re.dwell’s West Michigan clients include Grand Rapids-based Woosah Outfitters and E.A. Brady’s, as well as Mann+Hummel USA Inc. in Portage.
Re.dwell targets the commercial office space market, but is not limited to “one type of customer,” Chase said. “We have done stuff for college kids to multi-million dollar corporations. It’s kind of whoever finds us.”
According to an outlook from Fung Business Intelligence, the furniture sector will grow at a 2.9-percent annual rate through 2019, with Millennials accounting for most of the industry’s expansion.
Additionally, Millennials are searching for smaller and more affordable furniture, so retailers must adjust for a demographic that more than doubled their spending on furniture and bedding (from $11.1 billion to $27 billion) from 2012 to 2014, according to study from Katana.
For Re.dwell, e-commerce platforms like Etsy help Chase engage with clients and find a product that best fits their needs. Today, Etsy makes up 50 percent of the sales at Re.dwell, with the rest coming from word-of-mouth, Chase said, adding that the company ships and delivers to roughly 25 states.
Soon, he would like the company to expand from furniture into full-service design.
In many ways, Chase sees his company and others like it as part of the evolution of the region’s legacy in fine wood furniture.
“There are little wood shops all over Grand Rapids,” Chase said. “It’s kind of cool. Grand Rapids is going back to where it all started, as a furniture town.”
Made in Michigan: Grand Rapids-based Re.dwell LLC transforms reclaimed wood and found objects into custom furniture pieces. The company, founded in 2011 by Daniel Chase, makes conference tables, bar stools and reception desks, sourcing the wood from old buildings, factories and farms. Re.dwell markets its pieces through word of mouth and via e-commerce sites like Etsy.