Paul Troyano is a bit of a latter-day Johnny Appleseed. Instead of planting seeds that give life to trees, he gives life to reclaimed wood creating lamps, chairs and tables from a choice of 42 varieties of wood.
Pecan, magnolia, cherry, pear, sweet olive, camphor, mulberry, cypress and cedar are some of his favorites. Troyano gets little of his wood from a lumberyard. He primarily uses wood from trees felled by storms or old age, preferring local woods, saying they contain a wide range of beauty and workability.
“I try to build tables that imitate nature’s designs, asymmetrical and unique as tree branches,” he says. “I need to make what I see in nature. So I try to build furniture that imitates nature’s designs and gives recovered wood new life and beauty.”
Tryoano favors handmade over digitally-aided design. Dozens of brown banana leaves are drying on a clothesline in his backyard. He’s hoping to create a new type of paper with them. His wife, Sue, who is a papermaker, currently makes shades for her husband’s creations out of rice paper.
“You know they have computer programs that will make it look as though furniture was handcrafted,” he says. “They even put in stress marks to make it look handmade. We need to keep using our hands.”
Troyano is a member of the Furniture Society and Louisiana Crafts Guild. He’s also on the Green Pro Directory, which lists the best craftsman using environmentally friendly materials. His works has been honored by organizations such as the Green Project, in its annual furniture design competition, Salvation. Troyano sells his work on his website (livingfurniture.us), as well as on Etsy.com, and shows selected pieces at Ariodante Gallery and Dutch Alley Artist’s Co-op. Throughout the years he’s also sold his work at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
His collection also includes bowls, cutting boards and utensils, all of which are hand-rubbed with Danish oil, making them non-toxic and food safe.
“He made me a table and bowls out of a cherished Magnolia tree we had to take down in my front yard, says Laurie Reed, owner and director at Ariodante Gallery. “The whole neighborhood was mourning the loss of this tree, so I called Paul and he turned it into ‘living furniture.’”
Troyano also makes wooden bowties. A fellow artisan, who was making leather ties, suggested Troyano try making wooden ones.
“So I experimented and came up with the right way to do them and found the sizes that worked,” he says. “They sell very well. I can’t keep up with them.”
Repair work is also in Troyano’s repertoire, because he never wants to see a once functional chair or table thrown into the trash. He, of course, wants to bring it back to life.