Inspired to make treasures of others’ trash, Yvonne Broderick is at the forefront of what could be styled as Cayman’s next furniture revolution.
Stunned at the number of serviceable shipping pallets that companies here throw out in their thousands each year, Yvonne upcycles the utilitarian by-products into stylish and durable furniture. Made principally out of heat-treated pine and cypress, Yvonne later coats pieces in a special non-toxic formula to keep them termite-free and mold-free.
A fervent DIYer, the married mother of one enjoys the challenge of transforming the discarded pallets into funky beds, trendy wall hangings, coffee tables, benches, dog beds, kennels, trash crates, shelving, dining room tables and vanity units.
With her keen eye for crafting fun and fashion-forward furniture, Yvonne has taught herself how to use power tools and other necessities. For the more ambitious projects, she is happy hiring a professional carpenter if need be.
“I find that what I can make from pallets is only limited by my imagination. What started out as an experiment one afternoon, in my garden to while away a couple of hours, has turned into a consuming passion. The possibilities are endless,” the furniture maker says.
From small projects to large
Yvonne first started turning her hand to creating on-trend pallet furniture when her young son went back to school after the long summer break. “I made a large Thomas the Tank Engine train as my first foray into working with wood. After that I scoured Internet sites like Pinterest for ideas and it mushroomed from there,” she explains.
Most recently, Yvonne added a 2-bedroom, 2-and-a-half-bathroom fixer-upper to their property portfolio. Tucked away in a quiet side street, the property looks much larger inside than its exterior suggests. “I could immediately see that it had a lot of potential and was structurally sound,” she says. “It just needed plenty of tender loving care to turn it into a warm and welcoming space with plenty of character and modern uncluttered charm. It needs a lot of work and so this is my big project this year,” she adds.
As well as ripping out carpets and the entire stairs, Yvonne has painstakingly gutted both bathrooms, adding custom recess wardrobe space and knocking down a non-load bearing wall in the smaller bedroom to install clothes space.
Given her need for pallets, it wasn’t long before Yvonne made contact with a company which has become her principal source of unwanted wood. So now instead of getting unceremoniously dumped at the landfill, serviceable pallets are getting a new lease on life.
The process, depending on what she plans to make, involves dismantling the pallets in most cases, prying the nails out with a hammer and crowbar or a sawzall. Each piece of wood is then scrubbed with equal parts of bleach, dish soap and water and left to dry before being coated in a sealant that prevents molding, rot or insects.
This stage complete, the wood is sorted into piles of pine, oak or cypress strips (one pallet can be made of two or more different types of wood).
“Some is very soft and light colored, others hard and heavy,” says Yvonne. “Some pieces have smooth surfaces with no visible grain, others have magnificent knots and prominent grain. These textures dictate what I’ll use each piece for.”
Each piece is then sanded to whatever level is required. “For example, a painted coffee table will be sanded, painted and resanded and given a final coat of paint,” Yvonne says. “For a distressed look, the wood is sanded lightly so the grain of the wood can come through.”
Having free creative rein with her full-time renovation project has meant committing to a strict budget. This, in turn, has led Yvonne to creating much of the apartment’s fashionable yet affordable furnishings.
“I get a lot of satisfaction from repurposing plain and unattractive crates and making them into beautiful statement pieces,” she says. “It appeals to both my solidly practical and aesthetic sides. I also get a real kick that I’m saving myself a fortune on some items, which in turn allows me to upgrade other items such as some of the countertops and the Tempur-Pedic mattresses,” she says.
Pleased with the initial results, she is making repurposed wooden pallet pieces for each room including a king-sized bed, window seats for lounging and extra storage, and vanity units for the master bedroom, wardrobes for the smaller bedroom, an assortment of tables, shelving and wall hangings. Whether the end pieces are finished with paint or are stained, stenciled, varnished or tiled, each one is made with care.
Her foray into pallet furniture also opened Yvonne’s eyes to other sources of recyclable material for the renovation project.
“You wouldn’t believe the kind of perfectly serviceable stuff that people and contractors throw away when building a home,” she says.
As testimony to that, she shows off the apartment’s stylishly bijoux master bathroom replete with stunning mosaic glass tiles and colored backsplash. Both were found while driving through a high-end residential enclave and seeing workmen hauling the materials into a huge skip. She also repurposed some “fabulous slate tile” which she’s used to make a stunning 42” x 72” feature wall in the living room.
“I’m mindful to always ask for permission before rummaging through skips and rarely come away without some must-have find,” she says.
“You wouldn’t believe the things I’ve found. There’s so much needless waste due to over-ordering and buyers getting rid of nearly new pieces, which don’t fit in to the overall look,” she says.
Other items are sourced on Ecay or are bought as end-of-the-line products from stores at a fraction of the original price. In these ways Yvonne has not only bagged herself an impressive top-of-the-range fridge-freezer with Jenn-Air downdraft 44” hob, a top-of-the-line KitchenAid built-in oven and garbage compactor and built-in microwave, but also acquired two glass vessel sinks which make effective design statements in both upstairs bathrooms and the ground floor’s half bathroom.
“The last thing I want is a painting by numbers type décor,” she says. “I dislike interior design which lacks warmth. My style is eclectic … I want my home to strongly reflect my tastes while at the same time doing my bit to conserve the planet’s resources cleanly and cost-effectively.”