Whiskey Barrels Transform Into One-of-a-Kind Furnishings
In the United States, a barrel crafted from American white oak (Quercus alba) and used to age the spirit that will become bourbon, Tennessee whiskey, sour mash, or any number of craft whiskies can be used only once, as specified by law. After this use, most of the used barrels are sold to distilleries in Scotland and Ireland for maturation of their whiskies. In America, the barrels are generally used between three and eight years. Across the pond, they are used to age the spirit for three to upwards of 40 years.
After contributing their distinctive characteristics to the aging spirit — primarily sweet, smoky, spicy, and caramelized aromas and flavors — the oak barrels are ready for the next stage of their lives. This reincarnation sometimes takes exotic turns, both in use and geography.
Whiskey Barrel Stave Furniture
Reconfiguring staves into tables and chairs is not new. What is unique, however, about the connoisseur-quality pieces being crafted in San Diego by Barrelly Made It (BMI), a division of Planet Rooth Design Haus, is their U.S. Design Patent (#USD615313S), and the attention to detail in construction and style.
BMI is the manifestation of creative director Gustaf Anders Rooth. A transplanted Swedish designer and master craftsman, Rooth creates pieces from reclaimed whiskey barrels from American distilleries and wine barrels from local and Northern California wineries. Each component of the barrel is recycled and reused, including the heads (ends) and steel bands.
Commitment to quality, both in design and execution, is a hallmark of BMI. "We are about integrity, style and grace," says Rooth. He continues, "The furniture’s integrity stems from my training in Sweden, and also through the materials. The noble oak was hewn from trees many decades old and served an integral role in the creation of fine wine and spirits. The furniture’s style is that it just looks good. In fact, many of our chair sales are to collectors who purchase without ever sitting in them first! I like to think that grace, or elegance, is the result of our integrity and style."
BMI is housed in an upscale area of San Diego, surrounded by galleries, cafés, medical offices, and stately homes. The City of San Diego zoning department loves the small company because of its boutique production, with no noise nor pollutants (the protective sealant is water based and non-toxic). In addition to Rooth, the company employs a second master craftsman, an executive assistant specializing in IT, a craftsman, and CEO. When the company was new, the furniture was called "Bohemian Chic," but with a hand-stamped medallion of authenticity affixed to each piece, and the granting of the design patent, that moniker evolved into "Functional Art," and "clients" became "collectors," residing in more than a dozen states and several countries.
The concept of integrity comes up a lot when listening to Rooth. He is fond of saying, "I want our work to appeal not to the masses, but to the connoisseur of the finer things in life." He put this relationship-over-retail and quality-over-quantity mindset into action in 2011 when he turned down a potentially lucrative deal with a luxury retailer for an initial order of nearly 100 chairs across the organization’s network, and direct order fulfillment from stores. "I realized how important it is for me to know where my business comes from and to have that control. What would have happened when the deal dried up? What about the people I would have had to hire to help me?" That’s integrity.
Planet Rooth Design Haus
3334 5th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92103