Products, People, Places and Things Representing the Best in Coastal Living

Products, People, Places and Things Representing the Best in Coastal Living.
Welcome to our blog "Coastal Creations & Design." We hope that you'll visit us often and read about our favorite coastal destinations, beach-inspired products, inviting seaside spaces, original artists works and people living the coastal lifestyle.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Driftwood Art & Furnishings: Re-Purposed Beach Finds For the Coastal Home

A custom made driftwood lamp at Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Gallery.

It's been a few weeks since I've been at the helm of Coastal Creations & Design blog. My time was pretty much devoted to covering the 21st Annual Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race and Schooner Days events following the completion of the race held here in Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia: visit our Schooner Days blog at and Schooner Racing on the Bay at co-written and produced by my good friend Allen Graves who reported live from the deck of the schooner "Spirit of Independence." Now come and gone for another year, I'm back at the wheel and searching for new Coastal Creations and Design "seriously seaworthy" people, places and things to cover.

My friend Allen Graves on the Rappahannock Riverfront. Photography by Joe Elder
 Speaking of seriously seaworthy people, places and things, my friend Allen Graves recently called and invited me to catch up with him at his cousin's home on Virginia's Rappahannock River. It's a magnificent riverfront property with over 20 acres of undeveloped land in Middlesex County and a great destination for hunting driftwood and other beached nautical finds. So off I drove leaving my wife Alison behind to manage Skipjack Nautical Wares, for another Rappahannock River adventure. This time in search of great pieces of gnarled and twisted Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana commonly known as eastern juniper / red cedar with its washed and sun-faded silvery-gray patina and wonderful aromatic smell.

A driftwood sculpture mounted onto a pitch-black iron base.
 This reclaimed cedar driftwood is perfect for a number of artistic creations; larger pieces are perfect for sculptures, custom lamps and table bases. The smaller pieces can be used  for frames and stands for shore birds and other mounting applications. My mission: to find some great driftwood pieces to create a few exceptional driftwood coffee tables like the one pictured below! This is why Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Gallery is sought out by interior designers and coastal homeowners nation wide searching for authentic and creative one-of-a-kind nautical/coastal furnishings, art and decor. We go to great lengths to provide our customers with these type of unique and authentic products. That's why we walk the extra beach mile.

A custom driftwood coffee table base acts as an artistic centerpiece in this living room.  From an article in Coastal Living Magazine. Writer Gena Sigala, Photographer Dominique Vorillon.
 Driftwood like this is readily in demand and becoming harder to find due to the ever increasing inhabited private property that dominates our rivers and oceans. This is certainly the case for a lot of the types of authentic nautical products that we carry, where the supply has diminished and the availability to obtain them becomes increasingly more difficult.

Large piles of driftwood and fallen trees along the Rappahannock River beachfront.
We headed out on a Sunday afternoon for a preliminary search to select choice pieces along the more than one mile of beachfront with plans to return in the morning to remove and transport our finds by canoe. We walked the total distance including the two islands and noted the primary locations of driftwood and gathered together old washed boards, perfect for decorative nautical themed signs. Some of the beach areas was so dense with fallen trees and driftwood that we had to wade out into the river to get around the debris and continue our search. Other areas had narrow beaches and  eroding cliffs created by Northeaster storms that seriously destroy the river's edge and topple mature trees into the river.

A flamingo-pink plastic beach chair stands sentinel on a lonely Rappahannock River beach.

Most beaches like this one is private protected property. You must have permission prior to entering.
We returned the next morning to the first of the marked locations. Allen paddled the canoe to the site and I hiked along the shoreline to again observe the primary areas and search for other finds. About an hour later we rendezvoused at the agreed location and started to place the pieces into the canoe. A chainsaw was utilized to cut away the usable parts of a few of the larger pieces too big for transporting. We moved along the beach line with canoe in tow and continued to collect our selections. The weather began to deteriorate with darkening clouds moving in, increased winds and threatening rain.

A selected piece of silvery-gray driftwood. 
Allen with canoe in tow.
By noon we had selected and packed the canoe with as much driftwood as feasible for the return trip home. The larger pieces were positioned in the center to stabilize the weight and smaller pieces filled the remaining spaces. Allen paddled the canoe back to the dock struggling against increased winds that made steering the small over-weighted vessel a challenge. He also had problems with a previous tear in the side of the canoe that seeped in water, making the trip home even more hazardous. Fortunately, he was able to return to the dock without mishap. I made my way back along the beach to pick up our van and meet Allen at the dock.

The canoe filled with driftwood ready for the journey home.
Once back, we unloaded the canoe and stowed it away. Then we packed the van filled with our new driftwood inventory-ready to return to my business in Portsmouth. I stopped on the way home at an outdoor do-it-yourself car wash and high pressure washed the driftwood, removing mud, sand and any other loose debris before bringing the wood into our gallery.

My van packed with driftwood from the Rappahannock River.

Re-purposed products ranging from nautical antiques to reclaimed nautical/coastal materials such as this driftwood has been a passion of ours for years and a large part of items created through Skipjack Nautical Wares design studio. For other articles about Skipjack's re-purposed products, visit Maya's Completely Coastal  and Caron's Everything Coastal Style

Now the fun begins- the creative part of this blog. I will now review the driftwood inventory and plan how to best use these pieces for coastal home furnishings and design. Stay with us for part two of this blog-Driftwood Art & Furnishings: Re-Purposed Beach Finds For the Coastal Home. 

Love the life you live--live the life you love! 
Joe Elder