Group turns downed trees into furniture

July 2, 2010 (CHICAGO)

"This is a part of Chicago history that has been knocked down and we might as well save some of that story," said Bruce Horigan.

Ordinarily, it would be chopped for firewood or mulched. But Horigan makes it his business to intervene.

"We recycle the urban forest. Trees that came down for reasons other than lumber: storm damage or disease, in the way of new road construction or something like that. The trees are coming down and instead of them going to firewood or mulch, we're taking them to the highest use possible," said Horigan, Horigan Urban Forest Products.

After he rescues the fallen or diseased lumber from around the city and suburbs, he mills and kiln dries it. That process gets rid of any nesting bugs or disease.

Then, wood-workers like Ken Wier purchase the timber to make art, furniture and sometimes, memories.

"The bar stools I'm doing now was a lady's tree that came down building a house and she felt bad it had to come down," said Ken Wier, i2i Design and Icon Modern. "Another table I've done for a gentlemen, it was a tree at the house where he grew up… He loved the tree, climbed it when he was a kid. So when he had it taken down, we made him a dining room table now that they could cherish forever."

Wier uses a non-toxic, water-based glue to hold the wood together and other eco-friendly products as stains and finishes.

"We either use old coffee grounds or expired coffee grounds, grind it up and make stain out of it. Some of the other finishes I use for clear loat. It's a water-based urethane, very low VOC. Has no odor to it whatsoever," said Wier.

The one-of-a-kind pieces sell under the brand Icon Modern. Some pieces retain the natural look of the tree.

"We'll create the piece around that tree rather than vice-versa," said Lisa Mettenbrink, furniture designer, Icon Modern.

If you have a fallen or diseased tree on your property that you'd like to see live on, check out:

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