Secondhand News: Home is where the art is at Forty Third Place

February 13, 2016

Blake Sloane entering his workshop basement. The wood for the sign was recycled from home renovations. Photo courtesy Jonaki Sanyal.
BY LAUREN FLYNN KELLY —

BY LAUREN FLYNN KELLY —

During a 10-year stint in Chicago, Hyattsville native Blake Sloane made a name for himself by creating beautiful things out of salvaged and reclaimed wood. Since 2014, the self-taught carpenter and woodworker has carved out a spot in the Hyattsville home he lovingly renovated, in order to repurpose things out of locally salvaged materials. I stumbled upon Blake’s work on the revolving Instagram handle OurHyattsville and felt he would be the perfect profile subject for Secondhand News. Here, Blake shares the story behind the blog, www.fortythirdplace.com and his local woodworking business, which you can learn more about at www.blakesloane.com.

Besides being the street you live on in Hyattsville, what IS Forty Third Place?

Sloane: I see Forty Third Place as the umbrella brand for the creative work me and my wife, Jonaki Sanyal, do, which is a mix of woodwork and photography. What started as the name of our blog and Instagram documenting the adventure of renovating our first home together later turned into a homage to Hyattsville, the community we love that also provided us with so much of the local materials that propels my work. It also happens to be the street I was born on and grew up on. So the name carries great history for us and also encompasses the continuing story of our little family and the work we love.

One of my favorite posts on the Forty Third Place blog is #foundat43rdplace, showcasing found treasures that include a “spanking paddle,” a Soundgarden tape and a dirty gnome-like figurine. Where did you find all these strange things?

Sloane: Some stuff came from inside of the walls we gutted; the spanking paddle was a floorboard among many we pried up. Renovating the house made us feel like archaeologists digging up all of these cool, mysterious details from the lives of past residents. So the story of the house is revealing itself over time. It’s a Cape Cod style from the 1930s that came into our lives by neighborly word of mouth. Having grown up across the street, my memories of Forty Third Place are of riding a sled from the second-story bedroom window as a kid in a blizzard in the ’80s when a bunch of young college students had made the house a bit of an “Animal House.”

That’s hilarious. What home renovation projects have you taken on?

Sloane: We have done a lot of projects. We installed locally milled ash hardwood floors on the first floor, renovated the master bathroom and kitchen, and installed a “hobbit door” in our daughter’s room, to name a few. We started playing with this giant pile of lath that came from tearing down a wall in our kitchen and got obsessed with making these geometric art pieces and trays. They’ve been pretty well received at some local craft fairs.

They’re beautiful. Your carpentry work is often done with salvaged materials. Since your move to Hyattsville from Chicago, where have you source reclaimed wood for local client projects?

Sloane: Sourcing material is one of the best parts of this type of work. My favorite material scores have been free and straight from the source — off of job sites in Hyattsville and Riverdale. I also love to frequent Community Forklift and similar reuse spots in Baltimore. I found some gorgeous lumber from Details Deconstruction in Baltimore that came from an 1890s row home. I have made a lot of tables, counter tops, and other furniture for local clients using this material. Most clients love a good story about where their wood came from.

What types of clients have you served in the D.C. area and what have you made for them?

Sloane: Most of my work before leaving Chicago was in a big shop, doing larger scale projects with restaurants and offices, so it’s been a nice change of pace to be doing more personal custom pieces from my own workshop since coming to the Washington, DC, area. I seem to make more large dining tables than anything else, some sign carving for the DC restaurant, El Centro, and I’m really proud of the two big benches with herb planters I made for the Takoma Park Sit on the Art Project this past summer. I’ve also enjoyed bringing smaller handmade items (cutting boards, serving trays, jewelry) to some festivals, including the Hyattsville Arts Fest.

What’s your next big project?

Sloane: I’m currently working with my father to rehabilitate a small 1920s house on Kennedy Street in Hyattsville. We are using a ton of reclaimed material and have decided not to alter the house’s charmingly small 600-square footprint. I hope it will serve as a new model for renovations in Hyattsville. I’m also working on creating some reclaimed wood accent walls to contribute to a project with Galaxy Homes, another great Hyattsville business.

How do you feel about painted wood?

Sloane: I love it and hate it. I love to design furniture where a beautiful wood grain contrasts with a pop of bold color. I hate removing the paint off of an antique that had no business being painted.

When is it really time for wood to hit the curb?

Sloane: Bugs, bad mold or bad rot. And even then, make sure it doesn’t first have some artistic value…