Rescuing cast-away furniture in Sarasota


As soon as he has the time, 35-year-old Mark Nodeen is going to add another tattoo to his growing display of body art. The new tattoo will say 390 Design, which is the name of a company he established two years ago that is dedicated to rescuing and repurposing castoff vintage wooden furniture and salvage lumber. The numbers 3, 9 and 0 are lucky for this musician turned furniture designer, and so far, his small company (himself and assistant Deanna Rio) has been successful in two niche markets.

One is supplying custom pieces of occasional furniture to clients who appreciate odd and unusual dressers, cabinets, mirrors and desks that express the sustainable movement in furniture. The other is the chalk board market.

ahfurniture26Using rustic wood and custom finishes for the frames, Nodeen is supplying homeowners, restaurants and businesses with sandwich-style, free-standing sidewalk chalk boards and well as wall-mounted models made to the clients specifications.

"The chalk boards have really taken off," said Nodeen, whose workshop takes up the carport, backyard and storage shed at the Sarasota home he shares with his wife and their toddler daughter. "I've got 390 Design chalk boards in bistro-type restaurants such as Eat Here and Classico Cafe and in retail clothing and gift shops. But, a lot of homeowners want them for message boards, for kids' rooms or for a home office. Anybody can use a chalkboard and ours are good looking and custom-crafted for the client."

Nodeen also sells some ready-made boards in various shapes and sizes at The Fickle Fish on Fourth Street in Sarasota.

CORRECTION: This article has been modified from its original version, published April 26, 2013, as follows:

Mark Nodeen's furniture is on display at Marcotte's Architectural Salvage in Largo, not at Sarasota Architectural Salvage, as originally reported.

Nodeen moved to Sarasota from Illinois. The original story incorrectly stated he moved from Iowa.

Nodeen's furniture (there's some on the floor at Marcotte's Architectural Salvage in Largo) probably appeals to a more specialized group of consumers, people who are looking to make a statement about the environment and about America's reputation as a throw-away society. For people who believe in the mantra that says restore, recycle, reuse and repurpose, Mark Nodeen is their man.

Nodeen comes by his materials in assorted ways. "I got started in this career when a neighbor of mine put a part of a vanity out on trash day," he remembered. "It was basically a sound piece of furniture, but out-of-date and beat up. So I took it. I cleaned it, rebuilt a couple of the drawers, painted the outside, inside and underneath and I even detailed the dovetails. I added lighting and finally vintage hardware, and the piece looked good enough to start a new life in someone else's home. I felt good about saving it and creating something artistic and original out of something discarded."

From there he scouted for furniture parts everywhere — garage sales, thrift stores, salvage yards, side of the road, you name it.

"I won't work with pressed board or wood that isn't substantial or interesting," he insisted. "I evaluate a piece carefully before deciding to devote hours to it. But, I love when something has a history, like the beams from the old John Ringling Hotel that I've made two tables from so far."

Nodeen moved to Sarasota from Illinois in 2006 to be part of a band and to reconnect with his father.

When he took a job at Sarasota Architectural Salvage, his furniture-making heritage caught up with him.

"When I was a kid growing up in Illinois, I used to hang around my grandfather who refinished furniture," he said. "I would watch him and help a little, and I guess I learned more than I thought I did. I certainly learned to appreciate fine old pieces of wood and to realize that wood furniture could be manipulated and changed from one purpose to another.

"Lately in the studio I've been experimenting with tucking LED lighting systems into cabinets and wall units. These lights can change color or be on a timer and the kind of special effects that a homeowner can control are very cool. The idea of mood lighting inside furniture appeals to me."

Nodeen's artistic determination to salvage old furniture and accessories that have character is actually part of a nationwide trend; it's just that most people aren't as skilled or imaginative with their rescue projects as Nodeen. The popular HGTV show "Flea Market Flip" is a testimonial to the kind of repurposing projects going on all over America.

In "Flea Market Flip," hosted by Lara Spencer, contestants compete against each other to see who can buy something at a bargain price at a flea market, repurpose it and then sell it at a profit at the same flea market the following week. The most salable items on the television show tend to be tables, storage furniture (such as desks, bookcases or cupboards), light fixtures, chairs and decor items such as mirrors made from ornate picture frames or old windows or shutters.

Spencer, author of the book "I Brake For Yard Sales," loves to treasure hunt in Sarasota, where her mother has lived for seven years. Together, they routinely check out the inventory at SPARCC Treasure Chest, Sarasota Architectural Salvage and the Women's Exchange.

In terms of what sells best at 390 Design, Nodeen agrees with Spencer but has an advantage with his custom chalk boards. He also offers a customized service.

Nodeen is developing his own custom 390 Design paint palette so that the color of an item purchased from 390 Design will be just as distinctive as its design personality.

Marsha Fottler

Marsha Fottler has been a newspaper and magazine lifestyle, food and design writer since 1968 first in Boston and in Florida since 1970. She contributes to regional and national publications and she is co-publisher and editor of a monthly online magazine that celebrates the pleasures of the table called Flavors & More. (941) 371-8593.
Last modified: April 26, 2013
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