The enduring value of 200-year-old furniture is evidenced by the demand for antiques. The value of 200-year-old wood, however, is often overlooked. After seeing handsome pieces of aged lumber hauled off to landfills when Hurricane Hugo leveled historic homes around Charleston in 1989, craftsman Capers Cauthen wanted to preserve an important part of the city’s heritage.
“It’s amazing how much wood comes out of some of the buildings only to be replaced by steel or modern materials to meet guidelines for renovations,” says Cauthen, who worked for 20 years at a local carpentry company, restoring many of the pre-Civil War properties damaged by the storm. He wanted to repurpose the vintage lumber originally used in the structures, giving it new life rather than it being lost forever. But his idea to create a furniture company wouldn’t take shape until years later, when a series of unfortunate events—including a brain injury and the death of his father—left Cauthen overcome with grief.
Describing himself as a “hands-on kind of person,” the native Charlestonian threw himself into projects to keep his mind off his circumstances. While clearing a collapsed old barn, he had the notion to turn the weathered beams into a table. When the piece sold at an antiques shop on James Island, Cauthen knew he was on to something.
Soon, he started salvaging discarded wood from jobsites and arranged with local contractors to haul off historic timber that could not be reused in construction. Plank by plank, he transformed reclaimed wood more than a century old into tables large and small, using traditional techniques to join pieces by hand. By 2009, Landrum Tables was born.
Since that time, Cauthen has continued to grow the business, creating a catalog of designs and crafting custom furniture for hundreds of residential and commercial clients who want to own a piece of history. “Our designs look good in original weathered condition, highly finished condition and, in some cases, raw wood for outdoor applications,” says the artisan, who now oversees a team of five builders. “These different finishes work in many settings, which attracts many different types of customers.”
True to its name, Landrum Tables is best known for its stunning tables, each carefully crafted to reveal the unique characteristics of the weathered wood. The furniture maker’s current inventory includes rustic farm-style dining tables, coffee tables and consoles with clean mid-century lines. Landrum Tables also offers signature sideboards, kitchen islands, gun racks and writing desks, among other products.
Sink vanities currently are in high demand, thanks to the residential construction boom in Charleston, Cauthen notes. They add a touch of historic flair to a new home and provide a distinctive focal point for bathroom renovations. “Each vanity will have its own thumbprint, whether live-edge, pecky cypress or reclaimed heart pine,” he says, adding, “No two are alike.”
Although antique wood is a precious commodity, Landrum Tables’ 4,000-square-foot warehouse is filled with Charleston heart pine timbers from downtown homes and buildings. “We also have several exclusive sources for river reclaimed cypress, which is a perfect match when combined with the antique Charleston heart pine. This combination allows the antique wood to be used to its fullest potential,” he says.
Whether ordering a custom piece or selecting from Landrum Tables’ signature designs, customers can choose their preferred style of wood and their desired wax, finish or stain to get the right look. Each piece is lovingly handmade, as the once-discarded lumber is transformed from a piece of forgotten history into a work of art.
Landrum Tables recently added an online catalog on its website, where customers can view the current inventory for sale and photos of commercial work created for restaurants, retailers and corporate offices. The furniture maker’s North Charleston showroom on Dutton Avenue also features a collection of available furniture and photos of signature designs and pieces created for other clients.
But owner Capers Cauthen prefers to be out among the people. A member of Lowcountry Local First, the Preservation Society, the Exchange Club of Charleston and the Program Advisory Committee for the American College of the Building Arts, Cauthen has deep ties to the community. On Saturday mornings, he can be found at the Charleston Farmers Market, happily showing his wares. “I field all kinds of questions from locals and visitors, and especially woodworkers,” he says, with a grateful smile.
Thanks to Cauthen’s dedication to reclaiming hidden treasures from historic Lowcountry homes, those who share his passion for the past have plenty to talk about. *
Leslie J. Thompson is a Dallas-based freelance writer with a passion for interior design and international travel. Read more of her work at lesliejthompson.com.