One day back in 2001, Medford furniture maker Darryl Starr had a house full of guests and not enough seating. So he disappeared into his shop. When he emerged, he had not only a stack of new chairs but a new business idea, known today as The Northwest Pole Company.
Using peeled logs and through-tenon joints, Starr has developed his own brand of eco-friendly furniture. He harvests the logs himself, strips off the bark and assembles everything by hand. He uses his own sawmill to create tabletops.
Starr, a native of Bend and descendant of the original pioneering Barlow family, prides himself on using every bit of wood that enters his workshop. Small scraps are fashioned into trim and drawer pulls.
"These pieces will last forever," says Starr, who started his career in forest management with a focus on small-diameter thinning.
In the past decade, "only one piece has come back because it was broken," he explains. "It had frozen to the deck, and it broke when the owner tried to free it."
The craftsman generally works with pine, fir and cedar, but he's always happy to incorporate other woods into a design. One project involved removing a dead cherry tree from a customer's yard and using the wood as an accent on a custom piece for her.
Because Starr does everything himself, he's able to price his work competitively. A computer desk, for example, starts at about $350.
In the summer, Starr keeps a booth at Medford's Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Market, where he displays his wares and chats with passers-by. The rest of the year, he works from his shop. Call 541-734-4790 for directions and an appointment or see www.northwestpolecompany.com.
Rogue River Rustics in Central Point also is committed to creating sustainable, heirloom-quality furniture.
"My dad took a furniture-making class and fell in love with the style," says co-owner Fred von Brandt. He opened the Hopland Willow Factory in California in the 1970s, specializing in bentwood-style, willow furniture. When the von Brandts moved to Southern Oregon in 1994, the name changed to Rogue River Rustics in honor of their new home. These days, Fred von Brandt mans the store at 49 S. Second St., Central Point, while dad Noah von Brandt does most of the building.
Like Starr, the von Brandts get permits from the Bureau of Land Management to harvest local trees for their projects. They favor thin saplings with the bark still intact, and their Mendocino-style chairs, based on the original willow designs, are still among their top sellers. Woods like chokecherry and sugar maple frequently make it into Noah von Brandt's shop.
"We're really only limited by our imaginations," says Fred von Brandt. He encourages customers to take what they like from existing pieces and add their own touches for one-of-a-kind results.
When the work is done, sawdust and small scraps go to Biomass One for composting, says von Brandt.
Rogue River Rustics can be reached at 541-665-7191.