Eric Dean | Giving new life to old wood

Eric Dean in his shop.

In the middle of an industrial building on Evelyn Road in South Lake Tahoe is a small workshop where Eric Dean is working on his latest recycled wood project. About a year ago, Dean decided to fully pursue his passion to use repurposed wood to make furniture, something he has been doing in his own home for years. He started by turning an old door into a coffee table and found that he had a knack for making functional art.

Eric Dean is always looking for new ways to reuse wood into something that serves a new purpose.

“I took photography in high school. I’ve been very artistically inclined most of my life; you wouldn’t think it since I worked in construction, but I found artistic processes even in that. I saw a remodeled house and the furniture all looked rough and rustic looking but all brand new. I thought I could do that,” Dean says. “Everything we had before that was made of crap particle board. Now we have furniture made out of real wood.”

Using fence boards he built a cat cabinet, aka a litter box, for his pets and then started selling them. It has since become a popular item. He has made five or six cat cabinets and outhouses that have been shipped all over the country.

Some of Eric Dean’s s signs made of recycled wood.

Selling his work online through his Web site and at local craft fairs, farmers’ markets and events such as Sample the Sierra, Dean is always looking for new ways to reuse wood into something that serves a new purpose.

“[At the first show] I sold a lot of silhouette bears; it was my first actual stenciled sign. It is my tribute to California,” he says. “I was not at this last winter, I wasn’t even thinking about farmers’ markets. But a friend invited me to share a booth with him at a pop-up show at The Landing. I enjoyed talking to people so much that I signed up for the Ski Run Farmers’ Market a couple weeks later. It gets me out of my comfort zone. I’m shy, but once I start talking to someone about something I love, it’s hard to stop.”

Dean points out a project he recently completed: a headboard that he created using old pallet wood. It took him around three days to build it and two days to stain it. He was getting ready to ship it to Alaska.

Eric Dean’s recently completed headboard that he is sending to Alaska.

Finding his wood around town left over from pallets, tear outs from remodeling projects and what construction companies are willing to donate to him, Dean is happy to turn it into something functional and if he sells it, he only asks that his customers donate or repurpose the shipping materials.

He personally says that he likes to repurpose anything he can get his hands on.

“I just got a forge donated from one of my neighbors. I’m excited to play with that,” he says.

Dean is also envisioning how to build wall clocks. He believes that it will give him the chance to branch out and do some metal work.

“Eventually, I’m gonna work my way into more metal stuff, but for now wood is a forgiving mistress,” he says.

He will be showcasing his art at this year’s Friday Ski Run Farmers’ Market and Sample the Sierra in South Lake Tahoe, and the Made in Tahoe Festival at Squaw Valley.

For more information about Dean, visit