Sustainability, or the impact our profession has on the environment, is a subject we all talk about. But how much are we actually doing about what we are leaving behind for future generations?
Peter McManus from Yard Furniture isn’t just talking. He is making a real difference by salvaging Australian hardwood, breathing new life into beautiful disused pieces and creating striking custom furniture for both commercial and residential spaces.
With what was initially a hobby, spending his spare time collecting discarded timber from building sites, McManus quickly discovered his passion for making furniture, taking his hoard and creating furniture for family and friends. Over time his passion grew, as did his reputation for quality craftsmanship, and Yard Furniture was born. As it would seem, resourcefulness is in McManus’ blood. His family migrated to Australia from rural Ireland in the late 60’s, and having no other choice, his ancestors had to be self-sufficient, a skill that was evidently passed down. In his youth McManus learned many techniques from his father, who would reuse where ever possible, making what he could for their home. His father’s ingenuity made a large and lasting impression. ”Salvaging timber is something I get a lot of satisfaction from.” His love of his work is apparent. McManus explains, ”I have been doing this for a while now, so there are a bunch of demolition companies that will give me a call when they think they have something that I might be interested in. I get most of my timber from old factories and warehouses, as they provide large quantities. Each haul is the same species, so the timber is mostly similar in grain & colour tone.”
The timber is locally sourced from landmark buildings and warehouses that are being demolished or refurbished, as many have ceiling and floor joists made from native Australian hardwoods. These large support beams are ideal because they allow for wide panels which offer versatility and a more consistent outcome for larger commercial furniture or joinery. These 100% recycled hardwoods are predominantly south-eastern hardwoods, including Messmate Stringybark (Wormy Chestnut), Victorian Ash, Red Gum & Blackbutt all of which are native Eucalyptus varieties. Other timber species can be sustainably sourced on request. Yard Furniture offers a selection of finishes from tint and stain, however typically they are finished with a natural and eco-friendly hard wax oil to retain the native grain and rich characteristics of the timber. Having access to such large quantities of reclaimed timber is rare, making commercial fit-outs a perfect use for these ancient timbers. ” I often find that commercial spaces can be sterile in appearance, you generally see a lot of hard surfaces such as laminex, powder-coated steel, concrete, carpet and tiles. When adding our natural timber pieces to any space, it brings a sense of calm to the interior environment. The other elements seem to harmonise and our pieces become the anchor.”
When working with such natural beauty, finding inspiration is not difficult. ”When designing, the initial inspiration and personal satisfaction comes from how I can enhance a person’s living or working environment. Then I consider the overall functionality, form & balance. Of course, the materials that I’m using are a motivating and inspiring factor.” Beyond the materials, McManus‘ attention to detail and craftsmanship is integral to the design, both aesthetically and functionally. ” When designing there needs to be a structural foundation. You need to know how you’re going to make what you’re designing work and how the joinery is going to look within each different environment.”
McManus, having been a TAFE teacher, is keenly aware of imparting his knowledge and expertise to the next generation. ”I can say first hand that without this resource our industry would suffer immensely. Being a TAFE teacher gave me great motivation and inspiration to continue to do what I do.” Encouraging mentorship from other makers. ”Starting points are very hard to come by for emerging designers & makers. Having support gives that starting point, from where a person can develop their skills, confidence & find their own signature style.” McManus acknowledges by rejuvenating these abandoned timbers he is doing his part for the environment. By rescuing these timber pieces he saves them from landfill as well as the need for new tree logging and the use of cheap, chemical-laden materials. ”We are harming our environment through waste. I guess my conscience is that bit clearer knowing that Yard Furniture is doing their part in reducing the carbon footprint.”