Meet the Team Featuring: Carolyn

Carolyn is one of our Reclaimed Wood Experts helping out folks in Colorado and Texas along with other Rockies and Southwest regions. She’s quick to smile and great with interiors. We asked her to share a bit more about herself:

carolyn-with-dogsWhere do you live/work from? What do you like about it?
I live in Colorado – part time in the city /part time in the mountains. I never get tired of the scenery here.

What’s your background with wood or reclaimed wood in particular?
I have been an Interior Designer and Artist for more than 20 years. I have a BFA in Interior Design and Architecture from U-Michigan. I’ve worked with lots of materials and have special affinity for wood. I’m also married to a custom home builder – one of the best perks, is having a direct customer line for our unique products!

You get to cover some neat territory. What is your role on our sales team?
Reclaimed Wood Expert for the Rocky Mountains and Southwest States. I focus on Colorado and Texas. It is pretty amazing to have a role that allows me to do things I love: focus on interior design, travel, meet new people, and have unique experiences, all thanks to a company with products I believe in.

What about wood, or reclaimed wood, appeals to you?
I love the characteristics and stories that reclaimed wood hold. It really feeds the artist in me to work with the variety of wood. The sustainability of giving these products new life, and new use, is so important.

We reclaim Foundry Maple from old factory buildings. Each batch is unique and full of character.

We reclaim Foundry Maple from old factory buildings. Each batch is unique and full of character.

Which product is your favorite? Why?
By far my favorite are our Foundry sourced reclaimed Maple.  Each of them is so specific, telling the story of a business or industry that supported a community with jobs, made a specific product, and is from a building with character and quality that you do not see very often these days.

carolyn-concertWhat are your hobbies outside of work?
Remodeling our home in the Colorado Mountains keeps me busy (and my husband, and our kids). Outside of that I focus my time with my family, though I’m also an avid reader.

What’s your favorite book?
Hard to pick a favorite – I have several:
–       “The unbearable Lightness of Being” Milan Kundera
–       “People of the Book” Geraldine Brooks

We’ve heard you talk about your puppies. Tell us more?
I have 2 dogs: (1) red tick healer mix named Posey (35 lbs), and (1) saint Bernard named Oscar (160 lbs). Despite the contrast in size Posey is the boss, Oscar is the cuddler/hugger. They’re best buds, wrestling, playing, and napping together all the time. (Scroll back up to see Carolyn’s faithful canines ‘posing’ (snuggling & hugging) with her.)

If you catch us at a trade show you're likely to see Carolyn's smile in person!

If you catch us at a trade show you’re likely to see Carolyn’s smile in person!

Share something quirky about yourself…
On occasion, I have exhibited extraordinary bowling skills!

I enjoy any adventure and one of my favorite adventures was a Wilderness Yoga camp trip, where we rode horses into a camp deep in the Troublesome Basin, Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest – horses, yoga, hiking, camp fires, gourmet camp food and some amazing women.

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I Love Chicago

Over the past few years, Chicago has become one of my favorite cities to travel to for Pioneer Millworks. Architecturally magnificent and with a vibrant mid-town area, Conde Naste Travler just ranked Chicago as the #2 city favorite for tourists.

South Michigan Ave Selfie

We do a lot of work with architects, designers, and builders based in the windy city on projects all across the country. But if there’s one thing I’ve found that’s nearly as awesome as the midwestern charm of Chicagoans, it has got to be the food. Fortunately for me (and my stomach) our reclaimed wood adorns plenty of the best new restaurants around town.

One Fifty One Kitchen & Bar opened just within the past couple of weeks out in Elmhurst, clad with our Patina Vat Stock on the front and trimmed with our American Prairie Gray. After a look at the menu, I can’t wait to get back there for dinner.

Reclaimed wood, inside and out – Its what we do.

Nando’s is a name familiar to those from the Mid-Atlantic, Chicago, and South Africa where the chain began back in the late 1980’s. I have to admit, I had lunch at a Nando’s twice last week. The chicken is just that good. And depending on the location you might see any number of our reclaimed wood materials in use. This location on Wabash uses our Black & Tan Oak in multiple areas, even some with painted planks for a vibrant accent.

A little paint on our reclaimed wood unifies it with other bright colors throughout the restaurant

River Roast has arguably the most awesome location, right on the Chicago River, with outdoor dining right next to the LaSalle St. bridge.

Outdoor heaters keep the patio warm at River Roast

We provided two different batches of our Foundry Maple for the logo walls in the restaurant. One is a unique sandblasted floor with a light yet warm tone, and the other is a replica of our first foundry maple batch, crafted by our finishing experts. You guess, I won’t tell you which one is which.

Foundry Maple in the main dining room

Foundry Maple behind the hostess stand

Before heading out of town, I swung by the new Starbucks up on Broadway, which was recently outfitted with Heart Pine salvaged from the Pullman Couch Factory right there in Chicago. This building became infamous in 2013 when the Chicago Fire Department battled a large fire there in sub-zero temps, earning the name “Fire & Ice Building” and documented in a previous post on our blog.

Three different depths of Antique Heart Pine which in its past life was charred and encased in ice

After 3 very full days it was time for the rails to lead me home. Passing through Union Station to board my train, a pair of Metra trains waited to shuttle commuters home to the suburbs just as they’ve done for decades. Chicago’s mass transit is unique in that there’s so much of it above ground, it becomes a great way to see the sights, and to make your way to a spectacular meal, hopefully surrounded by some of our beautiful reclaimed wood.

If you get a chance to ride the commuter rail in Chicago, go upstairs and sit in the “upper deck” for a better view.
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The ‘Random’ Trend: Firewood Panels

A trend in design for the past few years has been “random”.  Random colors, textures, shapes, thicknesses, widths, and character have become the norm in many projects both residential and commercial. Playing off this random concept, a national retailer asked us to create a random firewood wall panel for their stores.

firewood-panel-pioneer-millworks-macroSome people think the roots of this look is in Scandinavian design, while others get more of an Adirondack or Rocky Mountain lodge feel. The simplicity and organic nature of stacked firewood is beautiful – I’ve always marveled at how every piece is unique in shape, size, and texture. Translating this beauty to a prefabricated panel would prove to take considerable work, but our team of craftspeople are always up for a challenge.

First, we had to figure out what we would be using for the wood itself. The firewood we generate in our shop comes in the form of off-cuts from the timbers we salvage. Usually its the “bad part” of the beam on the ends, perhaps with some rot or damage from the deconstruction process. We don’t waste this, and in fact it is burned in our high-performance boilers which heat our kilns and our shop in the colder months here in NY. So we had to find something that wasn’t cut from old timbers – and we didn’t need to look any further than the trees growing around our yard. Nothing too big, just some Poplars and softwoods which, coincidentally, were being trimmed around the same time as they were encroaching on our yard space. They were the perfect size to form a nice arrangement on the panels for our client.

fire-wood-panel-whole-pioneerFor the retailer’s project we split the logs to give them a genuine wedge-profile, cut them to the requested depth, carefully dried them, and then mounted them to a specially prepared plywood backer and frame.

Stepping back and looking at it, our shop thought it was a really cool project that we probably wouldn’t be asked to make again. Fast-forward a few months though, and a longtime client of ours in New York City called up asking about a similar effect, this time for the exterior of a restaurant.  Working with an outdoor application presented its own set of challenges but once again our team developed a solution again sourcing small, fast-growing species overtaking the edges of our yard in NY.

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Just this last week, we shipped another set of panels, this time for the lobby of an apartment building outside Philadelphia. This project combined both of our prior efforts, using small diameter logs of similar species and color with the bark intact, but for interior use next to a fireplace.firewood-panels-apt-lobby-paWe’ve done other random projects with a more refined look using reclaimed timbers including a curved end-block wall crafted from Poplar and Basswood, and a really cool custom stained Red Pine wall at a coffee shop in Michigan. What’s your random design desire? stained-red-pine-random-wall-pioneer-product

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Welcome Sean Comerford!

Sean Comerford started in our mill with the Moulder Crew in January and moved into the office to join our sales team in May. We dug deeper to learn more about him:Sean explores to feed his love of old wood and history.

Sean explores to feed his love of old wood and history.

Where did you grow up?

I’m originally from Buffalo, NY born and raised. After an extensive European hiatus where I learned that enjoying life is a priority, I returned home to Buffalo wanting to pursue a craft – which in turn took me to Rochester, NY where I apprenticed with a Dry-Stone Waller and learned to build with stone – the old way.

When the snow came with that bitter winter wind, I was unable to build so I turned to yet another medium – wood. I found Pioneer Millworks, and was so excited to start working here that I just came in and most likely pestered Rick enough that he hired me to work the Moulder Line.

You spent some time working in our mill. What did you learn?

Mid-January, I started work on the Moulder Line with Dave C and the guys. With fervor, I started studying the product specs, learning the species, and defecting to grade. Working in the mill nurtured some great relationships and gave me a better understanding of the inner-workings and nuances of our company and products. That knowledge helps me out immensely as a salesman.

What is your role on our sales team?

Learning Reclaimed Wood Sales is a rocky road full of pitfalls, but with this team mistakes are minimal and they transform into good experience. I have come a long way since my first days here, interacting with customers who walk through the front door looking for flooring, paneling, mantle timbers and everything in-between. Apart from Inside Sales, I provide support mainly to Jered S and Roblyn P, who in turn help me grow. My role will eventually evolve into local/regional sales. I’ll help spread the reclaimed word around Rochester, NY and beyond!

What about wood or reclaimed wood appeals to you?
Our 9 acre yard in Farmington, NY.

Reclaimed wood has soul, and as I walk through the yard I am often struck at how old some of these timbers are. Their species are nearly indeterminable but the texture and patina speak volumes about their character. The sustainability of this particular product coupled with the unique beauty makes it irresistible for a tree-hugger/wood-fanatic like myself.

Which of our products are your favorites? Why?

I like my reclaimed wood to have some character, a gnarly and interesting personality while also refined. So, I have to admit, there is a solid tie between Black & Tan-Tan and Antique Heart Pine (Character Select). reclaimed heart pine CS pioneer millworksThe latter, not only has some juicy history but the color and texture is mesmerizing, especially in those deep and wide resin canals where the divide between sap and wood becomes nearly indeterminable. The Black & Tan-Tan has a great story, and though smooth-planed, still has a good amount of that paint-ingrained patina that catches the eye.

sean bug netWhat are your hobbies outside of work?

You can usually find me at Rochester Arts Center throwing pottery, on a hike at Corbett’s Glen, or at the myriad local breweries in the area sipping on an IPA and engaged in good conversation.

What is your educational background?

I graduated with a B.A. in History – not exactly the most sought after certification for this line of work. That said, I do use my history degree to a greater extent now than I ever had in previous jobs – there is history in reclaimed wood and now it’s my job to share that history.

Share something quirky about yourself.

sean travels pano

Two years ago, I paid off my student loans and flew off to Europe with my extra cash, an overstuffed backpack and heady inspiration. I started a European odyssey that would bring me to an antediluvian Norwegian farm where I learned the old ways of raising crops, drank from glacier fed rivers, and chased cattle through the clouds. I took to the coast in Croatia, then on to rural Bosnia, Serbia, Hungary, the Carpathians in Romania, and Slovenia. I hitchhiked the breadth of Italy in less than twenty-four hours and ended up staying on at a Pressoir (Juice Farm) in France that had a wine vat older than the 13 Colonies – the inscription read 1472. I walked, ran, biked, swam, thumbed it, bummed it, and laughed my way through Europe for five months and twenty-two days.

What’s your favorite book?

This is the hardest question by far, but I figured it would be easier to name my favorite authors and genres instead. Without becoming too long winded, I love historical fiction, especially the works of Bernard Cornwell and Ken Follet. The cantankerous Ernest Hemingway is a must and in an opposing fashion, the works of Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching.

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