Modern Rustic Furniture from Wood and Wine Barrels

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Brian Schopfer uses reclaimed wood from the vineyard where he works to create beautifully crafted cheese and cutting boards, tables, benches, and more.

In a world of mass-produced everything, it’s refreshing to meet a craftsperson who restores your faith in the value of super-handmade goods. So it was when I met Brian Schopfer, who makes modern rustic furniture from wood and wine barrels reclaimed from his own backyard.

Employed as the farm manager at Greenvale Vineyards in Portsmouth, RI by day, Brian moonlights as a woodworker at night. After starting his gig at the winery in 2006, he quickly realized that he could source natural, local materials to supply his hobby. “The vineyard used to pay to have trees hauled away,” he says, “but once we moved in, that was the end of that.” To wit, his kitchen table is crafted from two book-matched slabs of intricate cherry (they mirror each other exactly, that is) from the farm and a reclaimed pine beam from a house in Newport where he and his wife first met.

You might also like: In a Rustic Garden Shed, an Elegant Surprise Party

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Mirrors made from reclaimed wine barrel staves have a reddish tinge from the grapes they once fermented.

Located on the shore of the Sakonnet River, the farm — which is listed on the National Registers of Historic Places — makes a bucolic setting for the couple and their two young sons, who live in a circa-1860 house overlooking the water. During work hours, Brian tackles the various chores required on the vineyard the grounds. But once the boys are tucked in to bed, it’s up to his workshop, located above the winery’s tasting room. There he cuts, sands, mills, and finishes tables, benches, tree swings, and cutting boards from felled trees and old wine barrels, and other scraps gathered from the vineyard.

Before trunks are cut to eventually become Schopfer Woodworking projects, friends help strip branches for firewood; other scraps are chipped down and spread on pathways throughout the vineyard. Much of the wood is then air-dried, as opposed to kiln-dried, which leaves more sap in the wood, thereby producing his rich, signature colors. “It’s about not wasting anything,” says Brian, who also produces smaller housewares such as picture frames, mirrors, and shelves. This winter, he’s also taking on a new project — a surfboard constructed from cedar. (Since it will have a hollow-body, the board will remain lightweight.)

Inspired by his grandfather, who was known for building and fixing things, Brian caught the furniture-making bug young. But it was under the guidance of two established local furniture makers — Jeff Soderbergh, and Peter Zuerner — that his dream began to to take shape. Brian’s biggest source of creativity, however, may be his connection to the land itself. “I look at animals and plants as one living system,” he says. “I think that’s why most people enjoy being in nature. It’s where we feel alive because we are part of it all.” From fallen trees and oaken barrels to a beautiful table to set down your wine glass, the artisanship of Schopfer Woodworking certainly brings the beauty and hard work of life on the farm full circle.

You might also like: Ruff Wood Design Company’s Farmhouse Chic Tables

Photos by Maaike Bernstrom Photography, except where noted.

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The Fleury table is made from English Oak with a live edge.

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Brian Schopfer in his house with a table built from reclaimed wood sourced from the vineyard he works on. Photo by Jonathan Clancy.

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Schopfer made a patio bench from an English Oak tree felled on the Greenvale Vineyards property, where he is the farm manager. Photo by Brian Schopfer.

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After being milled, black Cherry slabs are air-dried for one year for every inch of thickness, which creates unique, rich colors in the finished products.

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Cheeseboards features inlayed feet.

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Brian with the hollow-core, cedar surfboard he’s building. Photo by Jonathan Clancy.

Jonathan Clancy is a writer and photographer who enjoys learning about the lives and passions of other people. Always looking for the story behind the story, his career as a journalist began with a concert review of Delta Blues legend David "Honeyboy" Edwards; it was one of his final performances. His work, which has appeared in Newport This Week and other publications, focuses on the arts, fitness, food and beverage, and lifestyle sports, but he’s happy to write about anything where he sees a unique twist.

2 Comments

  • Reply December 12, 2015

    Jason Peters

    Hello,

    Beautiful work!! We have live edge book matched logs up to 65″ wide. I think you could make our wood even more beautiful in one of your pieces of furniture. Please feel free to call me 802-451-8962.

    Best Regards,
    Jason Peters

    Advantage Lumber

  • Reply November 13, 2016

    Juan Carlos Viloria A.

    Un artesano con mucha creatividad, excelente trabajo…..saludos desde Venezuela.

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