Hurricane Sandy Recycled: From Despair and Destruction, Designers Create Furniture and Art

The proceeds from an upcoming auction of their pieces will benefit charity.
UM Project's Après Lamp 1 is made of a salvaged rusty steel base, a repurposed brass shade from one of the firm's L.U.M. Lamps, and remnant ash wood from some of their recent projects. (Francis Dzikowski/Esto)
Dec 16, 2012
A former Gourmet staffer, Lawrence enjoys writing about design, food, travel, and lots of other stuff.

The Frankenstorm of 2012 left tons of debris in its wake, but a group of friends have devised a clever way to turn all that junk into cool design—and benefit victims of the hurricane at the same time.

Jennifer Gorsche, a design writer came up with the idea after seeing the masses of downed trees that were being cut up and cleared away. Gorsche enlisted her friends Jean Lin, the editor in chief of Designer Pages Media, and designer Brad Ascalon. The three then rounded up a group of designers who agreed to create furniture and artwork out of the storm’s debris and Reclaim NYC was born.

One of the first people they contacted was François Chambard, a furniture designer in Greenpoint, Brooklyn who is the founder of UM Project (for Users and Makers), a furniture design company. “I often describe UM Project's style and approach as Industrial Craft, with work transcending the qualities of both the handmade and the mass-produced,” Chambard told TakePart. “In many ways, UM Project draws inspiration from industry the same way others would be inspired by nature.

MORE: If They Build a House Made of Waste, Will Anyone Buy It?

He adds that, “The prevailing design aesthetics cutting across reclamation and vintage feels a tad too nostalgic, like an ultimate attempt to hold back. The times are calling for something a little more forward-thinking and risk-taking. We are living a ‘digital Bauhaus.’ Digital technologies are totally integrated and there is a comeback to analog ones.”

For its Reclaim NYC pieces, UM Project found inspiration in industrial waste created by the storm and created its Après Collection—a one-of-a-kind series of three lamps and three vessels. Chambard said the name “is an obvious reference to acknowledge what has happened, how Sandy has affected people's lives and businesses, as well what the future can bring.”

“The Après Collection is more low key than most of our usual work, for obvious reasons. Its purpose called for a certain restraint, and timing and budget were very tight,” said Chambard. “In spite of our limited means, we like to think we navigate the digital and analog worlds in many of our projects. For Après, we kept it more essential by combining distressed industrial and manufactured parts with basic materials and shapes. It is very much in line with the house style but also conveys a sense of imperfect, bruised beauty suggestive of the moment.”

Chambard found most of the parts he used in Red Hook, an area hard-hit by the storm and many were collected at Token—a Red Hook-based furniture design company owned by friends of Chambard—whose shop and studio were devastated by the storm.

UM Project’s Après Lamp 2 is made of a salvaged electrical junction box found on a Red Hook street after the storm, while the Après Lamp 3 has a shade made of a sectioned garbage can that is lined by an insert made of leftover felt from ElasticCo in Brooklyn. The three Après Vessels are made of rusty steel punched forms salvaged at the Token shop as well as pine and maple wood left over from some of Chambard’s recent projects.

There are now over two dozen designers participating in the Reclaim NYC event, and a silent auction is being held on December 19 at the Ligne Roset showroom in SoHo. The proceeds from the auction are being donated to the New York chapter of the Red Cross, and money raised through a cash raffle will go to help Token recover from the damage caused by the storm.

Do you want to own a piece of Hurricane Sandy and help its victims? Visit the Reclaim NYC Facebook event page for more information.

Lawrence Karol is a writer and editor who lives with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet staffer and enjoys writing about design, food, travel and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence |

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