Reclaimed: TCM's Interview with District Millworks
3.26.12

Photographed by Yayo Ahumada

Deep in the heart of downtown LA’s Arts District – and right on the surface of many of the city’s coolest storefronts – lies District Millworks. Crafting custom furnishings from reclaimed wood and metal elements, the men of District Millworks are making their mark on Los Angeles’ stylish homes and premiere retail locations. The company’s impressive space houses both an enormous workshop and a light-filled loft, which serves as their custom furniture showroom.  We met up with the head of this band of craftsmen, Jeremy Williams, at their downtown lair and got to know a little about how and why District Millworks works its magic.

TCM: How did District Millworks come about?

JW: “A friend and I grew up doing remodeling in Los Angeles. We decided to have our own shop to make our own cabinetry and furniture for our remodels. We found a 2500 square foot shop downtown in the Arts District and moved in. We borrowed some tools from our friends that weren’t being used, grabbed out tools, set up shop and kind of sat there waiting for a job.

“This was in the middle of 2009 that we decided to do this, which just happened to be during the crash of the real estate market. Jobs were really slow, so we decided to make some furniture out of some wood that my brother gave us from a house he had demolished in Echo Park. We told our clients we were doing this and posted some ads up in some classified ad sites.

“I guess people really liked our stuff. Six months later, January 1, 2010, we moved into a building that was a couple blocks away that I had been scoping out and talking to the owner about for two years. It was an old Globe A-1 flour mill that had been built in the early 1900s and later bought by Pillsbury in the ’40s or ’50s. Thats where our shop, showroom and office resides now.”

TCM: What is a normal work day at DM like?

JW: “Hectic! We check our kiln first thing to make sure our wood is drying in the kiln. Then it’s off to the saws.”

TCM: Tell us more about why reclaimed wood is of value.

JW: ‘To me, this wood has tons of character. Most of the wood you get today is from trees that have not fully matured and has little grain in it. We like the thought of taking something that was used once before for another purpose and totally repurposing it. For instance, we have bowling lanes from a bowling alley that was torn down in Omaha, Nebraska. We trucked the wood out here and made it into tables and other pieces that are now in homes from Malibu to New York City. People used to bowl on these, now other people use them to eat on.

“The biggest reason of all is to cut down on the ecological footprint that cutting trees down leaves on this planet. We will not be a part of deforestation.This is very important to us.”

TCM: What advice would you give others hoping to start as successful of a business based on their craft?

JW: “DO IT.”

TCM: Who has been your biggest mentor/inspiration?

JW: “We really like Geaorge Nakashima and Sam Maloof. Big fans.”

TCM: What do you love most about this business?

JW: “I love that we offer a service where customers can come in, look at the materials we use, tour our shop and design furniture together. This way, you know what you’re getting, where it came from and who made it.”

TCM: What other craftsmen/artists do you follow/admire?

JW: “Oh man, there’s so many.”

TCM: What have been your favorite projects/pieces?

JM: “So far Umamicatessen, Unis and Rebecca Minkoff are our favorite installs. We love all of our custom pieces we make for customers.”

To learn more about District Millworks’ custom reclaimed furniture visit their site here.


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