A funny thing happened to Lauren Coiner on the way to nursing school. She built a table. It happened last summer out of necessity – she and fiancé Keith Manville needed to furnish a deck at their Middletown, RI home.
Lauren had begun to DIY during her days as a student and veterinary technician. “I didn’t have enough money to buy new furniture for my apartment, so I’d look on Craigslist for stuff I could transform myself,” says the self-taught maker who grew up in California with an aunt and grandmother who were successful interior designers.
Friends and family marveled over the piece she and Keith had built — an 8-foot Douglas fir trestle table finished with a milk-paint wash — and convinced them to put it on Craigslist for sale. Almost immediately, “I got an onslaught of emails about it,” says Lauren.
Within just a few months, the duo had enough orders that it was obvious they could go into business as Ruff Wood Design Company – a play on words dedicated to their labrador retriever, Rogue, who spends days in the garage-turned-shop with Lauren. Keith – who kept his day job in intelligence and cyber-security at Raytheon in Boston – pitches in on weekends between gigs with his band, Chopville. But Lauren, who was slated to start nursing school this past fall, deferred her plans to move forward with designing and building.
With its farmhouse-chic look, Ruff Wood is focused primarily on custom indoor and outdoor dining tables made of Douglas fir and pine, and occasionally makes benches to match. “I knew what feeling I wanted these to evoke,” says Lauren, who’s improved her skills thanks to some handy in-laws to be.
“Dining tables really spoke to me,” she says. “They’re where you get your college acceptance letters and where you introduce boyfriends to your parents,” she explains. “They’re this element in a home that soak up all these emotions.” To introduce that sense of history to pieces made from new wood, Lauren typically adds distressed finishes to her tables. “They look like they have stories to tell,” she explains, but come in at a price well below national retailers for similar pieces.
“Designing and painting has always been my happy place,” says Lauren, who hopes to open a showroom this year. “I’ve always struggled with that question: What do you want to do with your life?” she says. After finding her flow with Ruff Wood Design, it looks like she may have an answer. Rhode Island will have to wait, in any case, for another nurse.