Run your hand over a Landrum table and you can almost feel the history in it. The veining and whorls, the imperfections—they all hold a story, sometimes hundreds of years of tales that seem to whisper their secrets. From reclaimed floor joists and siding to doors and stair treads, every piece bearing the Landrum brand and signature is made of antique wood sourced from Charleston’s old homes and buildings, giving them a character and uniqueness that holds infinite appeal.
Launched in 2009, Landrum Tables really had its start in 2007, when owner and founder Capers Cauthen committed to the idea of creating a furniture company. But unlike so many other furniture brands, his was to be a way of preserving Charleston’s historic structures—one piece at a time.
“The value of discarded timbers from old Charleston homes and buildings and the historical significance that these pieces of wood holds is lost when it’s discarded,” says Cauthen, who has lived in Charleston his whole life. “When I realized what was happening and what was being lost, I decided I was going to do something about it. Furniture was the most obvious solution to me because I’ve been in the antiques business since I was about 15 years old, and I’ve been involved in furniture my whole life.”
Naturally, Cauthen went directly to the source for his wood. “I would stop in—and still do—at random jobsites where they have antique wood sticking out of the dumpsters and ask the contractors if I can have it,” he explains. “They usually say yes because they have to pay dump fees. By taking the wood off their hands, I’m helping clean up and eliminating part of their cost. It’s kind of a symbiotic relationship.”
Growing up with a father who was the director of the Preservation Society of Charleston as well as the owner of an antiques shop, Cauthen’s passion seems ingrained. It’s in his blood, this deep desire to preserve the history of the city he loves, and his products allow those beautiful pieces of the past to find new life. “What you’re really getting is a one- to two-hundred-year-old piece of Charlestonian history with a patina that you can’t re-create,” Cauthen explains. “We can be making the same table, but because of the wood, each table has its own thumbprint and is completely one of a kind.”
Working with a five-person team of builders, Cauthen has created a family within the company at Landrum. It’s a family business in more than one sense of the word, and Cauthen credits a great deal of his success to their craftmanship and dedication to quality—not to mention their love of woodworking and desire to exceed client expectations.
Each piece is handmade from start to finish, from design to completion, and everything bearing the Landrum name is a labor of love. “We don’t have mechanical joinery; it’s handmade and hand joined, with hand-rubbed finishes, which gives it its unique look and feel,” says Cauthen.
There’s no part of the process that Cauthen doesn’t touch—though admittedly his favorite thing to do is hand scraping the wood. To him, the creation process is a beautiful thing, and what results is nothing short of stunning. That skill and craftsmanship, coupled with the antique wood used, is what has brought such success to Landrum—a name Cauthen chose because it is his middle name. But Cauthen also realizes the importance of the community support he has received as well as that of his clients across the nation. Boasting sales in 38 states as well as three countries internationally, Landrum has clearly made its mark both in the residential and commercial markets.
In fact, working with designers, architects and builders is key to Landrum’s business model, as the company is constantly working with them on custom pieces. Restaurants, hotels, bed-and-breakfasts and even corporate offices have all tapped Landrum for their custom needs, commissioning kitchen islands, massive farm tables, sink vanities and conference tables. “We’ll work with IT guys to design the tables so that they’re fully integrated but still have that antique, rustic look,” Cauthen explains.
A true Charlestonian, Cauthen has created a culture at Landrum that is deeply tied to the community. He invests a significant amount of time connecting with people on Saturday mornings at the Charleston Farmers Market and at all three of the city’s holiday markets. “You never know who’ll you’ll meet, just walking around out there, and I get a great deal of happiness from spending time at the markets, talking to people and telling them about our work,” Cauthen says.
A member of the Preservation Society, Lowcountry Local First and the Exchange Club of Charleston, as well as serving on the program advisory committee for the American College of the Building Arts, Cauthen also ensures that the company is involved in a number of local events in addition to donating to local charities. Several Landrum tables have been on display at Charleston City Gallery, and Cauthen was honored with the commission of creating the table on which Rev. Pinckney’s Bible is displayed at the Mother Emanuel AME tribute and art exhibit in Charleston International Airport. “That was an incredible blessing to be asked by the AME church to make that piece,” Cauthen says.
A man of deep faith, Cauthen’s reverence for life and for history is what has shaped his career and his company—and that history will live on for generations more in the pieces he creates.
Liesel Schmidt lives in Navarre, Florida, and works as a freelance writer for local and regional magazines. She is also a web content writer and book editor. Follow her on Twitter at @laswrites or download her novels, Coming Home to You, The Secret of Us and Life Without You, at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.