Julee Herdt began teaching her Green Tech course 20 years ago—long before words like "upcycled" and "reclaimed" appeared on tags in high-end boutiques. "Back then, nobody knew what I was talking about," laughs Herdt, a professor of architecture at the University of Colorado Denver. Today, design and architecture graduate students and undergrads flock to her class for a hands-on, semester-long education in the art of repurposing previously used, discarded materials into eco-friendly furniture.
"The high level of creativity is the same," Herdt says. "But I think the students nowadays see it as more marketable." And so do local businesses—specifically, Cherry Creek's hip home furnishings emporium, Revampt. Owner Daniel Louis (with help of representatives from Room & Board and Fin Art and a couple of local architects) selected six winning projects from the fall semester, some of which will be available for viewing and purchasing in his showroom for at least the next few weeks. One project—the bar cart, pictured above, made by Justin Pollom—sold the same day it was placed in the store for an impressive $2,775.
"The forlorn, dusty, gritty items—those are the objects I tell students I want them to go out and find," Herdt says. "I send them to scrapyards, tell them to look along roadsides. I want them to train their eyes to see differently." The first three months of the class are spent gathering inspiring materials, sketching, and creating models out of scraps. Then the real transformation begins, as humble objects—for example, Pollom started with an antique mining cart from northeast Denver's Porta Power—are refashioned into useful pieces with real value.
Herdt hopes her students will take the lessons they learn crafting eco-friendly, built-to-last furniture with them when they scale to bigger projects. "If they can do it with furniture, they can do it in better buildings, too," Herdt says.
Click here to view a photo gallery of more Green Tech projects. See something you like? Call or swing by Revampt. Even if it's not currently on display in the store, Louis may be able to connect you with the designer for a custom order.
—Photos Courtesy of Jesse Kuroiwa
Follow copy chief Jessica Farmwald on Twitter at @JessicaKF.