Gifts from the barn

Published 4:39 pm Thursday, November 17, 2011

This 10-foot table was crafted for the event room of the recently opened Journeyman Distillery in the old Featherbone Factory in downtown Three Oaks.

Every once in a while, I run across a business I find so intriguing and exciting it knocks my Canadian socks off. And we Canadians love our socks!
For those planning to serve Christmas dinner, Spring Creek Furniture has remarkable harvest tables and sideboards. Children on your list? How about a set of bunk beds, a wooden train set or maybe a handcrafted wooden sled, just like the beloved “Rosebud” of the Orson Welles’ classic film “Citizen Kane?”
To help prepare the holiday meal, there is a number of styles of butcher blocks. Serving wine? Impress your friends with a stylish wine rack.
What makes these items so special? They are made from reclaimed barn board, the majority of which comes from barns torn down by Village Greene Construction/Spring Creek Furniture partners Cary Harrington and Joe German.
I met Harrington two years ago at an event for Support Local Agriculture.  We came in contact again, while I was interviewing his son, Cody, for a story on the alpacas they raise on a small family farm on the other side of Three Oaks.
“We were really pretty crazy when you think of it,” Harrington said. “The economy seemed to be tanking out, and all construction was slow.  So we diversified out of doing new construction by making furniture out of the old barn wood. It has now grown to where we now get to completely redo old barns and make them into residential spaces.”
On the wall of the company’s display room is a cover of Lake Michigan Shore magazine featuring Chef Jean Joho and the barn that was transformed into a guest house for the renowned Las Vegas restaurateur. The renovation includes a kitchenette, bathroom, living space and huge party room on the main floor with bedrooms and second bath on an upper level.
But it is the furniture and home-accessory pieces that drew me here.  I was amazed by the one-of-a-kind finds. Unique occasional tables, some with drop leaves and others with art deco styling, some featuring a stylized U.S. flag, are sure to make these coffee tables a conversation piece. The design is also available in wooden wall art. Sturdy dressers and beds feature hand hewn wooden pegs.
I suggested to Harrington that, of course, November  would be too late for any custom work.
“Not at all. We do a lot of custom orders. It is one part of the business we are pleased to be able to pursue.  Like anything you get from us, they will never be replicated,” he said. “The wood won’t let me.”
Harrington is the sixth generation of the Harrington clan to live in the Galien/Three Oaks region. The town has a Harrington Photography and Harrington Collision owned by relatives.  Included in the businesses’ eight employees are Harrington’s son and son-in-law and German’s father, Jon.
“Twenty years ago, I was driving truck hauling cars for GM. Our kids were little, and I had to come off the road to see them grow up. I didn’t really want to work for somebody else, so I started making photography props for senior photographers. It involved traveling to conventions and conferences in places like Orlando and Valley Forge so we would take the kids out of school .… they learned more on those trips than any classroom could have taught them,” Harrington said.
Soon, he began getting calls from people with older Victorian and gingerbread houses who wanted such a craftsman to work on their residences.
“That led to my getting a license and now….”
Outside the showroom, in the parking lot are a number of model sheds and garden furniture, unique and constructed of the reclaimed barn board housed in the 30,000-square-foot facility. One wooden swing is contained by an elaborate trellis I could imagine with fall clematis or a climbing rose.
When the owners of the Journeyman Distillery just up the road in the old Featherbone Factory decided to tear up the old wooden floor for safety reasons, they called on Harrington for the job. In return, the owners got a 10-foot custom-made table made of the removed timber along with a cart and display wall made of wood from a former corn crib.
It is difficult to discern the difference in quality between the new pieces Harrington and team create and the wonderful old pieces from local farms he has on display in the building. The apple and pear presses, seed separator and alfalfa cleaner have withstood years of hard use on the farm and still are capable of being used to this day.
Pricing is reasonable. Butcher blocks can be had for $35 to $45. I purchased a couple of old peg clothes hangers. One that has a decorative handhewn nail is only $13. The larger one fashioned from some of the bigger pieces of barn board has a mantle, is perfect for hats and gloves and sells for $45.
I could have stayed for hours. I love the grain of the old wood. Pine, sycamore, red and white oak and poplar are all local nature’s works of art and made practical by the craftsmen of Village Green Construction and Spring Creek Furniture.
The warehouse is amazing with its beams and doors, planks and trusses. Nothing is wasted. Employee Kevin Beggen  was recently turning weather-worn barn poles into railings for a porch and stairs.
To date, advertising for the firm has been through word of mouth. The website is Visit the 16860 Three Oaks Rd. location between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Call (269) 756-9450.