Meet Stephen Muscarella: Reclaimed wood creations

Stephen Muscarella was itching for a change after several years spent in the corporate workforce. Countless days spent staring at a computer screen prompted him to spend his free time devoid of technology, working on his car and making furniture. The monotony of routine eventually wore thin, though, and Stephen decided to trade in his economics degree and cubicle and go full time with a hammer and nails.

Stephen set out to work in Brooklyn, New York, essentially riding on the wave of a dream. Without much baseline capitol, Stephen had to be resourceful and so he began walking around the city in search of left-behind wood that he could turn into something new. He saw it as a “crazy opportunity” to create something out of seemingly unmatchable materials. Stephen coined his motto, “taking what’s left and making it right” after realizing his ability to take foregone materials and craft them into something new and functional. The thrill of it all far surpassed the minimal satisfaction of his previously held desk job.

Growing up, Stephen worked in carpentry, so he already held a basic knowledge of proper woodworking techniques. The shift to working with reclaimed materials, however, required some degree of letting go of the conventional. When a woodworker goes to a lumberyard, there are pieces of wood ready to be cut to specific dimensions, but when a woodworker scours streets and beaches and a whole array of other wood-riddled areas, there really is no opportunity to be specific or picky. Stephen has worked with driftwood found on the beach and pallets pulled from the street, and somehow made them work together.

Stephen rarely completes a project that starts with an exact idea and ends up replicating the original concept. He prefers to get solid inspiration and several specifics from the people he’s building for and work with them along the way to make the decision to stick to the original design, or try something new that will transform the piece. “All of my artistic creativity comes from restraint. So if I have a constraint on the problem, then that’s when my creativity starts flourishing,” said Stephen. “If you give me a blank slate and say do something, I’m not your guy. But if I have some sort of way of taking the problem and making it better, it’s amazing how the artistic side can flourish.”

This reclaimed coffee table has a map of New York City imprinted on it.

While reclaimed pieces of furniture give off an artistic and rustic vibe of their own, Stephen likes to introduce additional elements, like painted lines and torched boards to make the final piece even more interesting and varied. He continually experiments with different techniques, stretching the limits and pushing his own boundaries. Stephen loves that CustomMade provides him with all sorts of requests that push him to challenge himself and expand his expertise. He receives unique requests and is able to draw on others’ creativity to come up with a quality piece of furniture that is innately interesting.

Aside from the satisfaction felt from producing a quality piece of furniture that has lasting power, experimentation is the single most important part of creating for Stephen. He confessed that as a woodworker, he doesn’t have it all figured out. In fact, he finds it hard to believe that anyone working with his or her hands has become an ultimate master with nothing left to learn. Stephen’s experimental outlook guarantees that no two pieces will ever be the same and no new idea will ever go unturned.

Recently reminiscing about the first year he spent dedicated to woodworking, Stephen reflected, “You have to be willing to invest in yourself and put your fear aside and say, ’look, this is what I’m doing.’ Because if you don’t tell people that this is what you’re doing then no one listens to you. The hardest part was just sticking with it.”

When his newfound and rewarding career was underway, Stephen learned more than reshaping reclaimed wood. He shifted his entire perspective toward appreciating the simpler, yet finer, things in life. The quantity of things that consumed his everyday life became unimpressive, and instead the quality of objects became Stephen’s center focus. “Let’s buy something nice,” urged Stephen. “Maybe support someone that’s making a living off of [creating] and the world will be a better place in some manner. “

A few years into full-time woodworking and Stephen Muscarella is constantly perfecting and expanding upon his expertise. Whether he’s creating something small or large, there is always a huge chunk of Stephen’s own creativity infused. His CustomMade portfolio bleeds his personal brand and is a true representation of Stephen’s flawless work with flaw-filled wood.

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