Cheers to the Rise of Reclaimed Wine Barrel Furniture

By Clare Tattersall

Like many, I enjoy a glass of wine (or two) with a good meal, when on a social outing with friends and at the end of a particularly arduous workweek while chillaxing on the couch. This past Saturday whilst doing just that, I got to thinking: What happens to old wine barrels?

Generally, commercial wine barrels are considered ‘used up’ after four to six years. (This figure is based on a full year of aging each time.) Many are discarded even earlier after only a few vintages, adding to our landfills and contributing to the burden on our environment.

To prevent this, some companies are salvaging these wood containers and giving them another life by fashioning them into products for the home, from furniture to decorative accessories.

Take Westcoast Barrel Co. in Abbotsford, British Columbia, which is putting barrels that have outlived their usefulness in the spirit-making world to second use. Since 2020, the family-owned business has been providing made-to-order furniture and home decor items made out of oak wine, whisky and bourbon barrels, including dining and end tables, coat racks, stools, clocks, serving trays and charcuterie boards. The company uses equipment specifically designed to work on rounded lumber to provide not only a more efficient process but also a more precise design.

Wine barrel chairs by Oak Wood Wine Barrels feature memory foam upholstery, removable seat storage and underlying wheels for easy movability. Available in brown (seen here), berry, sea blue, red berry, blue denim and checkered brown, grey or black.

Similar to Westcoast Barrel, whose foray into repurposing old liquor barrels was born out of the owners’ inability to find a moderately priced wine barrel table for purchase, Mark Robitaille of LMB Designs got into the reclamation business on a whim. What originally started off as a hobby — crafting an old barrel into a wood fire table for personal use, as a hobby during the pandemic — soon turned into a full-time job. Unsurprisingly, the Kamloops, B.C.-based company makes outdoor barrel fire tables, available in half, three-quarter and full barrel sizes, which have become LMB Designs’ best-seller. Sections of each custom-made piece are left unsanded and exposed, so no two pieces are alike. What’s more, this allows customers to see and feel where the wine saturated the wood for years. Other functional furniture pieces and accessories made from old oak barrels include coffee and entry way tables, Adirondack chairs, benches, bathroom vanities, medicine cabinets and wall sconces, allowing consumers to appreciate wine-making well after the barrels (and their glasses) are empty.

Wine barrel furniture has seen an explosion in demand in recent years, even making its way onto the ‘little, big screen’ like Mo on Netflix. Cozy barstools were supplied by Oak Wood Wine Barrels, serving as props and seating for cast and crew during breaks. The rise in popularity of furniture crafted from wine barrels is due, in part, to its eco-friendliness; reusability of existing wood is associated with a lesser carbon footprint than the manufacture of brand-new, factory-made furniture. Wine barrels are also exceptionally durable given they are constructed to withstand the weight and pressure of wine inside of them, which allows this type of furniture to be used both inside and outdoors. What’s more, no two furniture pieces are exactly alike as each barrel has its own distinct colour, grain pattern and texture. This provides discerning customers with a one-of-a-kind piece of furniture, particularly for those looking to blend rustic charm with urban sophistication to truly set themselves apart.

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