Village Green Furniture Creates Sustainable High-end Designs

Vancouver’s Village Green Furniture uses reclaimed and pine beetle wood for its custom-designed furnishings

Vancouver’s Village Green Furniture builds eco-friendly pieces for your home

Deconstruct a typical table and you’ll find off-gassing toxic glues and stains, and unsustainably harvested wood that has travelled the world during processing.

Ken Konings of Vancouver’s Village Green Furniture believes there’s a better way to build

Why did you start your company a year ago?

Konings: It fills a niche in these environmentally sensitive times. At the custom millwork company I co-own with Grant Shannon, I worked with furniture designers who use reclaimed wood due to demand, since most large-scale manufacturers aren’t using it. Now I design much of the furniture myself. Our small shop in Surrey does custom-ordered coffee tables, end tables, dining tables, TV cabinets, armoires, green kitchen cabinets (zero-formaldehyde recycled chipboard panels) and home theatres. 

What is reclaimed timber?

Konings: Timber that may have originally been harvested over 70 years ago from 1,000-year-old trees is painstakingly removed from old B.C. buildings so that it can be used in a new form. Reclaimed fir, pine and some hardwood is salvaged, all with an interesting history. I’m currently working with wood demolished from airplane hangars built for World War II in Comox, and from an old fish cannery in Steveston. The source is always provided to customers. This rescued historic wood is from buildings long standing idle – barns, factories, mills, warehouses and even boxcars and mines – and has antique character, dense grain and warm patinas. 

Does the furniture look like it’s made from recycled wood? 

Konings: Yes, most customers want it to look slightly distressed. Much of the wood is filled (cracks and flaws are filled to make perfectly smooth), but natural reclaimed finishes expose nail holes and defects, and even rough, rustic looks are popular. I am finishing a dining table for a client that is heavily distressed, going beyond its original reclaimed state. Wood is available in various grades, though, and is suitable for contemporary and 
rustic styles.

Are costs higher? 

Konings: It is more expensive to build from [recycled wood] due to reduced supply of material, and it is labour-intensive to produce. It has to be salvaged by hand, with extra handling for drying, cutting out areas that aren’t usable, de-nailing, and magnetizing to ensure no nails are left. We do all cutting and finishing before making it into furniture. It costs approximately 25 per cent more: a substantial coffee table using reclaimed wood is $700, and dining tables start at $2,000. 

You also use pine beetle wood.

Konings: According to B.C. Ministry of Forests and Range, pine beetles killed nine million hectares (15 million logging truckloads) of trees, half of the province’s lodgepole pines. Some, but not many, companies are using the wood before it rots – there’s a 15-year window to harvest what’s on the ground now. (The roof of the Richmond Olympic Oval is made from pine beetle wood.) Pine beetle wood is slightly less costly than reclaimed wood. It is just as durable as other wood but has a marbled blue colour. 

Why don’t many companies use it?

Konings: I don’t know. A lot of pine furniture is built in B.C., and most manufacturers may occasionally get a little but don’t seek it out. One problem is that boards aren’t as wide as usual because infected trees are often smaller. If the wood is given a dark stain, you can’t even see the blue veins, but they can be emphasized if stained lighter. Since the trees are dead or dying, there is an ethical aspect to using them in addition to a waste-reduction reason.

Do you use eco-friendly finishes? 

Konings: We use ultra-low-VOC water-based stains. Clear-coat finishes include tung oil made from flaxseed and beeswax which are very durable and contain small amounts of polymers such as rubber, shellac and amber, blended to create a hard, thick surface finish. We dress the wood using non-toxic cleaners and use non-toxic glues. There is no air pollution or off-gassing, and everything is biodegradable. 

Do you have green building methods?

Konings: All wood scraps are used from cutoffs, even tiny pieces, for picture frames, small projects and finishing areas so we don’t waste any material. We try to use electricity instead of gas, and as certified cabinet-makers, we make everything by hand. Our B.C. customers want high-end design but are also environmentally conscious.

Originally published in BC Home magazine. For monthly updates, subscribe to the free BC Home e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the bi-monthly magazine.