Matt Meyung and his wife Molly Meyer have combined their talents of carpentry and upholstery to start their business, Phoenix Vintage, which creates artistic home decor made of re-purposed materials. The Bellevue couple sell their wares in a variety of locations, but showcase most of their items at the Riverside Center Antique Mall in Cincinnati.
Matt collects wood from just about anywhere he can find it, often out of dumpsters when homes are being renovated or businesses are shut down. He recently teamed up with owners of Darkness Brewing, a new Bellevue brewery expected to open sometime this fall. There, he will create the bar made of refurbished wood as well as some of the pieces hanging on the walls.
"I'm really excited to get into Darkness Brewing. I think it's going to be a really key network kind of deal," Meyung said.
Things that you and I might consider to be junk, Meyung and Meyer see it as a potential canvas. One piece at the antique mall is a wine rack made from an old wooden pallet decorated with drawings of bees and their hive made from acrylic paints. Other pieces feature an ornate design of wooden lath originally used in plaster walls where Meyung placed the pieces in a quilt-like design that gives it a cool and fashionable vintage look.
Another element to their style includes heating up metal gears, which are then used to burn the design of the gears into the wood to give it more artistic flair. Phoenix Vintage has done well in the short time that they've entered into the re-purposed wood art market and have found most of their success at the antique mall.
"We're typically in the top-five in terms of sales per vendor, so it keeps us going," Meyung said. "Just yesterday, we came down to make sure the place was looking alright and I had one of my favorite pieces right up here and then it sold."
That favorite piece was a combination of wood and metal that Meyung saw as something more than the trash it started out as.
"I had this rusted metal that kind of looked like the heartbeat on a oscilloscope, so I told the customer that it was like bringing back that wood to life, and they decided to buy it," he said.
They will also re-purpose existing furniture. If they spot an interesting chair, for example, Meyung will work with the wood aspect before Meyer reupholsters the cushion. The finished project is a one-of-a-kind piece that has had new life breathed back into it.
The materials come from all over. If Meyung sees a dumpster as he drives around, he will typically stop to check out if the trash can become something more.
"It depends on what else is in the dumpster before I dive into it. If it's full of furniture, I think maybe I shouldn't touch that stuff, but if there is an old beam sticking out, I'll stop and typically ask if I can grab something out of there. Nobody ever cares because they're just trashing it. Just last night I found a couple of doors that were on the side of the road. Eventually, I will make those into a bookshelf or something."
The hope is that their work at Darkness Brewing will propel the operation into the limelight enough to attract commissioned work to other businesses. If a prospective client likes Phoenix Vintage work, but would like some customization to it, Meyung and Meyer can recreate most of their pieces to the buyer's needs.
"I always offer custom work as well," Meyung said. "If you like the piece, but it's too small or too big or maybe you want a lighter wood, I can do it. I stockpile the wood. I have tons of wood. I have storage lockers filled with it. I do keep some at home. Typically, the pieces that are the best and ones that I'm more often going to use. A lot of the wood that I keep at home are the bigger beams and stuff."
The couple's business started out as an online vintage clothing shop but has morphed into the re-purposed materials industry. In fact, they are in the process of eliminating the clothes aspect of their operation and hope to be more focused to their current interests of woodworking and upholstering. Right now, in addition to the Riverside Center Antique Mall, Phoenix Vintage has pieces at the Savings Place in Newport and at Algin in downtown Cincinnati. Eventually, Meyung would like to consolidate his pieces into one place.
He says that a lot of people don't realize the potential in their wooden junk because they don't know how to re-purpose the various items.
"You don't have anything to do with it if you don't know what to do with it, so it gets thrown away," he said. "Sometimes if I don't have an idea of what I'm going to make next, I'll just take all the scrap that I'm not going to use and just cut it up into little pieces so I can use it to burn. It kind of creates a little bit more work space. It gets a little overwhelming once you start piling up wood everywhere."
In addition to partnering with businesses for their artistic decor, Meyung would also like to do custom residential pieces for people's homes.
"I hope to meet with interior decorators and designers who would want to use pieces in homes and stuff like that," he said.
Those interested in learning more and seeing Phoenix Vintage's other pieces, can visit its Facebook page.
Story and photos by Bryan Burke, associate editor