Last week my favorite extant architect and I took a trip to Oakville, CT. The motivation? Well, two years ago he had found a 1900’s chemist’s table that not only “made” (or in his words, “defined”) our design office, but also functions as the catchall for all the stuff you don’t want clients to notice — like files, paper supplies and snacks. I was dying to see the shop it came from. Little did I know that this “shop” called Get Back, was a 40k square-foot warehouse filled to the brim with every industrial item imaginable… in spades.
I got a chance to speak to the extremely personable owner of this vast operation that takes worn out and cast off metal and wood industrial objects and gives them new life …often with a very new purpose. Tim Byrne left Dublin in 1976 for London where he worked in construction, teaching himself the art of cabinet making. Due to a floundering economy and high unemployment, he decided to come to the US in 1987 where he continued perfecting his craft and where he developed a fascination with all things Industrial in this country. “You just don’t see this kind of stuff in Europe — and if you do, it’s most likely a reproduction”, he told me. “Everything metal was melted down during the War.” So he started salvaging equipment and fixtures from defunct and abandoned factories. In 1999 he rented three thousand square feet in a wonderful, but essentially empty, warehouse complex in Oakville, CT. Today his carefully sorted-by-type, long brick-walled rooms filled with industrial lights, washing machines, filing cabinets, machine wheels, molds, dollies, scales…. supply the stuff restaurants, hotels, and retail stores worldwide are searching for.
In the same repurposed factory buildings we also visited an artist who is putting her hand to pretty much everything decorative, but most notably wall coverings; and three metal worker guys who were making an interior stair railing for (of all places) an upper East Side, New York City apartment.
One floor below Get Back we discovered the studio and showroom of PettaThompson. We met both Rita Petta and her partner Rebecca Thompson who were in the midst of overseeing the application of silver leaf on to sheets of pressed bark to be used as wall coverings.
PettaThompson recommended a metal worker for a light fixture Michael is working on. So we ventured over to their “studio” and bravely ventured in despite the name on the door.
After this we were hungry enough to eat Oakville, but settled for a panini that covered a dinner plate at Matteo’s.