One of a kind

Posted by Renee Magyar on May 1, 2014

Beauty, environmentalism, and 'local' values come together at Green Furniture Solutions

James Lohman in the newly opened store in downtown Portland

James Lohman sits at a beautiful desk in downtown Portland. A large plank of blue pine wood shapes the surface, evoking a calm river of swirling cream and blue colors. At the edge of the desk, the wood suddenly cascades down to become a vertical plank on James's left side. It's a striking statement of fluid motion. He calls this his 'waterfall desk.'

People like you and me can see this and many other unique pieces at Green Furniture Solutions, which has just opened a showroom on 10th Avenue next to the Governor Hotel.

Everything in the showroom is, as we Oregonians like to say, 'made in Oregon.'  Placards explain the wood that gave rise to each these pieces. In the case of the blue pine desk, it came from a tree killed by disease spread by beetles that are thriving as a result of climate change. Unique in its coloration, blue pine offers a new aesthetic as well as hope for forests ravaged by beetle kill throughout the Northwest.  When dead trees are felled to create wood products, the risk of wildfire drops, and a new market for this wood spurs jobs and industry in addition to land restoration.

James has been in the commercial furniture industry for over 30 years. Long before 'reduce, reuse, and recycle' became a mantra, he practiced the concept early in his career by repurposing used cubicles and transforming old into new again. Quality made a difference. "Good quality still looks new after 10 years. Bad quality looks old after 3 years," he says. "To me, quality is a very important component of sustainability. It's not enough that something is manufactured sustainably. It's also important that it will last for many years."

Four years ago James took sustainability a few steps further and founded Green Furniture Solutions. Tables and desks made from innovative materials such as juniper and blue pine underpin a growing regional industry based on the restoration of Northwest lands and forests. James's pieces are ideal for anyone seeking beauty while supporting healthy environmental and economic practices.

The natural features of the wood add to its aesthetic appeal
The natural features of the wood add to its aesthetic appeal

James sources much of his materials from our subsidiary, Sustainable Northwest Wood, which sells lumber harvested regionally and grown sustainably. He then contracts with other small businesses in the Portland metro area to create the end product.

Several businesses are involved in the making of a typical piece, each executing a critical step of the process. "We've got the mobile mill, kiln dryer, planer and sander, craftsman, finisher, installer, and myself as the project manager," James says. "Doing everything in the Portland metro area is so important for the local economy. Seven different companies can get employment from something as simple as a table.  And this doesn't count those who come before me, like the wood harvesters and brokers." Over the years, James has worked with 50 local businesses to make green products.  

In the new showroom, customers can buy anything on display as well as commission pieces. Turnaround time for orders is 4-6 weeks - a shorter timeline than most manufacturers can offer for custom products. And because shipping isn't a factor, prices are competitive.  

James also takes pride in keeping his clients happy. "My customers know they can trust me to do what's best for them."  Soon, he aims to expand his product lines and sell small accessory and decorative items in addition to furniture.

Support your local green economy. Check out the showroom at 625 10th Ave.  You can also visit the website  and contact James directly here. Even if you're not in the market for furniture, the beauty of these pieces and James's friendly smile merit a visit.