When Portland artist and designer David Laubenthal of DJL Studio would drive to his workshop, he would often notice wood pallets dumped on the curb. He began to collect them. “After taking out the nails, I would plane them, and really interesting wood emerged,” he says. “The pallets came from all over the world. I would find paduch and mahogany, wood that somewhere was just for pallets, but here you would pay a lot for.” Laubenthal moved to Portland in 1997 after receiving a degree in sculpture at Arizona State University. He worked in and ran the sculpture department at Michael Curry Design in Scappoose for 10 years. “That was when we built the puppets for The Lion King on Broadway,” he says. “It was a great place to experience the hands-on aspect of design.”
Because of his interests in design, sculpture and the human form, Laubenthal was drawn to making furniture. “Furniture-making presents a challenge if you want a piece to be functional, because furniture has height, depth and width constraints built into its forms,” he says. “But those constraints also help distill creativity.”
Laubenthal’s reclaimed wood pieces often contain a reference to their original form, such as a rocking lounge chair with a design that recalls the slats of a pallet, or stools benches and light fixtures that echo aspects of the natural world. “What I like about working with reclaimed materials is their character and defects,” he says. “Every piece of wood has been on a journey and has a great story.”
Stools, $300; benches, from $900-$1,500; loungers, from $1,200-$2,500; djlstudio.com. The studio is not open to the public.