Kenwood Press


Serving the communities of Kenwood, Glen Ellen and Oakmont

email print
News: 12/15/2011

Starting a new tradition


Photo by Sarah C. Phelps
Martha Channer (left) and Jennifer Austin (right) show off a lampshade Austin recovered by adding new fabric and trim. The stool (right corner) is an RJ Austin Design original, one of a pair made from a Waukesha Engine piston mounted on a cast iron flag pole base. Photo by Sarah C. Phelps


In 2006, Jennifer Austin had a problem. She was in the middle of the remodel of a 1937 farmhouse that she and her husband had purchased on Lawndale Road, and although there were many features she enjoyed, the unique-but-dated built-in kitchen wall cabinet had to go.

However, Austin, who owns RJ Austin Interior Design, didn’t feel it was right to send this piece of history to the dump. Instead, she removed it from the wall, refinished it with a new coat of paint, added new hardware, repurposed a piece of limestone as a countertop, and set it in the living room as the perfect cabinet to hold her glassware and other breakables.

Almost everything in Austin’s house might have been something else at another point in time. From the table built from the farmhouse’s original hardwood floors to the stools made from Waukesha engine pistons from the City of Santa Rosa, Austin’s home is a showcase of the beauty of repurposing, a design style which she and her and fellow designer Martha Channer, of MC2 Design in Sebastopol, call “new traditional.”

Described variously as a blend of “Old-World New-World” or “East coast formal and West coast contemporary”, “new traditional” design is about repurposing antique or vintage furniture and updating it to blend with a more contemporary design style. According to Channer, “new traditional repurposing” can be done with furniture from any time period – from antique to vintage 80s – as long as it has good basic structure and style, or what Channer calls “good bones.” Austin said clients come wanting to take a piece of furniture that “may not be their style, but it’s quality furniture, or it may have sentimental value, and we show customers how to use that in their house, without it looking out of place.”

In May, 2011, Austin and Channer, both members of the Sonoma County chapter of the Interior Design Society (IDS), participated in the Designer Showcase 2011 at Fox Hill Estate by designing rooms in The Showcase Home, built by Jon Reiter. The Showcase Home, which featured reclaimed architectural elements from Europe, and eco-friendly building materials, was the perfect venue in which to present the “new traditional” design style that Channer and Austin have found in common. From their teamwork came a fast friendship, as well as a mutual desire to introduce an old idea to a new audience. Both Austin and Channer agree that in the design world, sometimes people feel like they need “permission” to re-use old furniture or blend time periods. The “new traditional” style is giving that permission, said Austin. “We both believe this is not a new concept in Europe, but we’re introducing it here in our county,” said Austin.

“New traditional” serves various sentimental purposes, but Austin and Channer said it also makes sense from an environmental standpoint. “We’re encouraging people to not to be a throw-away society in that respect,” said Channer. Austin said many older pieces of furniture are made from high-quality woods that can no longer be obtained and much of our “new woods” come from cutting down the rainforest. “It’s environmentally friendly and emotionally satisfying,” said Austin. Channer added that she and Austin also place an emphasis on using local artisans and vendors. With more than 20 years of design experience between the two of them Channer and Austin bring a toolbox of skills, product design and local resources to the table.

What if you need new hardwood floors in your 1937 farmhouse? You could rip them all out and toss them in the junk heap. “Or you can hire a designer, save the original floor and make it into a table,” said Austin. “Or wainscosting,” added Channer. Both of which Channer and Austin have actually done.

“We’re hoping our way of thinking will be remembered in the future,” said Channer. “We’re starting a tradition and hopefully we’ll be remembered in posterity as the generation who started reusing everything.” And it couldn’t hurt to have it look good to boot.

Find out more and view portfolios by RJ Austin Interior Design at rjaustindesign.com or 322-5085, and MC2 The Science of Design at www.mctwodesign.com or 888-4856.


Sarah Phelps is an editor and reporter. She was raised in Kenwood and has a BA from Loyola Marymount University.
Email: sarah@kenwoodpress.com

Recently Published:

08/01/2020 - SVCAC supports Glen Ellen cannabis operation
08/01/2020 - Tree Men at work
08/01/2020 - Concerns aired at groundwater public hearing
08/01/2020 - Property tax values available online
08/01/2020 - Mayacamas VFD seeking volunteers for board and fire council work
08/01/2020 - Virtual fundraiser for SV Mentoring Alliance
08/01/2020 - PG&E powering up...
08/01/2020 - Sugarloaf Ridge State Park events
08/01/2020 - Labor dispute likely behind golf exit in Oakmont
08/01/2020 - Oakmont’s general manager resigns
08/01/2020 - Long-term Bay Area planning – public workshop for Sonoma on Aug. 5
08/01/2020 - Kenwood Fire District ballot measure – confusing but necessary
08/01/2020 - Free food distributions in Kenwood, Glen Ellen
08/01/2020 - Protect open space at the SDC
08/01/2020 - Applications available for the 2020 Jack London Yacht Club Grants
08/01/2020 - We remember you: Notes from the Eldridge Cemetery
08/01/2020 - Agenda set for Aug. 3 Glen Ellen Forum meeting
08/01/2020 - New Soroptimists in Wine Country
08/01/2020 - Clarification
08/01/2020 - Kenwood school board, fire board election filing deadlines
08/01/2020 - Rebuild NorthBay awards grant to Glen Ellen Forum to benefit fire survivors
07/15/2020 - North Valley Municipal Advisory Council appointed
07/15/2020 - Fire Season 2020 top 10 tips
07/15/2020 - The witching hour
07/15/2020 - Political action alive and well in Oakmont...

Community Calendar

Plan Bay Area 2050 Workshop
08/05/2020
more...
Creekside Nature Hike
08/08/2020
more...
Sugarloaf Trail Crew
08/13/2020
more...
Night Sky Trails
08/15/2020
more...
Creekside Nature Hike
08/15/2020
more...
Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance Fundraiser
08/20/2020
more...
Forest Therapy
08/22/2020
more...
Economic Recovery town hall meeting
08/26/2020
more...