By Patra Taylor

As the North Pole workshop kicks into high gear to complete preparations for Santa’s Christmas Eve deliveries, the workers at a certain Meeting Street woodshop are putting the final touches on a set of limited-edition furniture pieces that will likely go down in history as the best gifts of 2015. Landrum Tables will open its doors to the public for a week beginning December 5 to offer about 75 handcrafted items — benches and console tables — for sale just ahead of the holidays. What makes this furniture so special?         

 

“I went to Buddy Camp with my son at Camp St. Christopher,” recalls Mr. Cauthen, the owner of Landrum Tables. “I realized the boardwalk had been replaced but the wood from the old boardwalk was still on site, ready to be disposed of. That gave me an idea.”

According to Mr. Cauthen, he immediately arranged to salvage the wood and bring it back to his shop. “I wanted to save the boardwalk because it has so much historical significance to so many people in Charleston, including myself,” states Mr. Cauthen, who has been savaging old wood, discarded furniture and other construction debris, then turning it into usable furniture since his teens. “There’s no reason to waste all that wood, but it can’t really be used in any other application. So we built tables and benches that I hope to sell for Christmas gifts, with a portion of each sale going to support Camp St. Christopher. It’s a way for us to give back to a place that means so much to this community.

“When you consider what kind of a table you can make out of old pieces of boardwalk, you understand that it’s going to be a rustic table that can be used inside or outside,” he continues. “We’ve actually taken the time to make all of the dowels out of this same wood, just to make these pieces as authentic as we could. We’ve finished them with a simple wax glaze that helps bring out the character of the wood. If you or someone you love has fond memories of their days spent at Camp St. Christopher, now is the time to give them a handcrafted piece of history.”

Cauthen notes that the Camp St. Christopher boardwalk furniture will be available while they last through Saturday, December 12. During that week, he will also hold his annual inventory reduction sale. All tables and other furniture pieces in the shop were designed by Mr. Cauthen and built from salvaged wood. “So much of the furniture sold today is made of glue and plywood,” Mr. Cauthen explains. “When you can put your money into something that’s a real piece of wood that’s already been around for 200 years, you know it’s not going to fall apart when you move it. It’s a piece you can pass down to the next generation. If you see something in the shop you like, but would prefer to have it in a different size or made of a different wood, we can very often custom-make exactly what you want. Why settle for something that’s not perfect?

Cauthen believes his passion for his work was a gift passed to him from his father, Henry F. Cauthen, Jr., an antiques dealer and preservationist. “My father was the author of Charleston Interiors and served for many years as the director of the Preservation Society of Charleston. He was a good man, a religious man, who passed on his values to me.

“So much of Charleston’s history is thrown away in the trash every year,” continues Mr. Cauthen, who opened his first antique store on James Island when he was 17 years old. “I first became aware of just how much of Charleston’s history was being hauled away and dumped after Hurricane Hugo. I never forgot that. I think that’s when I really opened my eyes to the historic preservation my father advocated for. So I got into home renovation. I picked up a hammer and started fixing things.”

It was during his years in home renovation that Mr. Cauthen learned there was nothing straight or square in Charleston construction. “It follows that there’s nothing straight or square in the reclaimed wood I use here,” he says. “We’re working with imperfections. But I believe the true beauty of the wood lies in imperfections, so we have to embrace them the best we can. My purpose is to take the most beautiful and most structurally sound aspect of an old piece of wood and use it to its fullest potential.”

Prior to opening Landrum Tables, Mr. Cauthen operated a hardwood flooring company working with about 15 local contractors. “When the economy crashed, they all folded,” he says. “I was out of work. I had an accident and was in bad shape. One day I just decided to focus on my faith and my family — to stop worrying about where the money was going to come from because I believed God had a plan for me. That decision led me here.”

In addition to building tables and other furniture, Landrum Tables works with other contractors on many different levels, from architectural beams to flooring solutions to wall decorations.

Cauthen is quick to point out that salvaging old wood and building tables and other furniture is not a sit-back-and-get-rich-quick scheme. “We work hard around here,” he adds. “It takes a lot of work to keep it going. I realize it’s not the most profitable thing for me to be doing, but I’m stuck in the endeavor because I believe in it. It’s what I’m supposed to be doing with my life.”

Landrum Tables is located at 575½ Meeting Street in downtown Charleston.

Mercury newspaper racks are located at the following locations:

The Meeting Street Inn

Clair's Service Station at 334 Folly Rd.

Harris Teeter on Houston-Northcutt Blvd.

The Square Onion in I'On

Mt. Pleasant Library on Mathis Ferry Rd.