One Man’s Trash is this Man’s Treasure
At Chatham’s Atlantic Workshop, Scott Feen transforms lobster pots, boat rudders, and pretty much anything else into custom furnishings and decorative pieces
Scott Feen hates to throw anything away. In fact, the West Yarmouth resident is so averse to waste that he spends a good part of his time rescuing items that others want to throw away. The founder and owner of Atlantic Workshop, Feen has built a thriving business salvaging everything from ships’ rudders to school lockers to lighting fixtures—and turning them into custom aesthetic and functional pieces for businesses and homes.
“There’s just a vast amount of resources that we throw out,” Feen says, “and the number one least-recycled item in the United States is household furnishings.”
Feen’s workshop in South Chatham’s Commerce Park is a massive, floor-to-ceiling hodgepodge of raw materials; it’s hard to know where to look. Boards of all sizes—some painted and some bare wood—are stacked on shelves. Wood crates on the floor are filled with fence pickets and water skis. The walls are hung with fishing nets and lobster pots. Outside, a massive storage container overflows with more wood, more furniture, more stuff.
While Feen collects items from a wide range of sources, his business focuses on pieces with coastal cachet. What might an old rudder become? A bench. Water skis? A headboard. What about lobster pots? Chandeliers! And what to create from shiny metal balls designed to divert lightning from the top of a Manhattan skyscraper? To be determined: “I envision them as the feet of something really cool,” he says.
Feen, who grew up in Central Massachusetts, caught the do-it-yourself bug while working in California as a sales manager for O’Reilly Media, a publisher that spreads the knowledge of innovators through books, e-books, online services, and conferences. In 2008, he moved back to Massachusetts to be closer to family and bought a home on Lewis Bay that had been in his family for three generations. He was in the process of reassessing his career when he saw a battered antique optometrist’s cabinet, the kind used to hold individual lenses, at a yard sale in Harwich. Something in the piece called to Feen—his dad was an optician in Springfield—and he bought it on impulse. After staring at the cabinet for a few months, he decided to turn it into a jewelry chest. He fixed it, felted the individual compartments, covered the outside with sailcloth, and sold it to a gallery in Chatham. The rest, as they say, is history.
Feen set up Atlantic Workshop in 2010 in the former carriage house of Chatham Bars Inn. Last fall, he moved his workshop into a larger space at Commerce Park to give himself more time and space to create. Now, he’s partnering with the owners of Bungalow, a home staging/high-end consignment store that recently moved to Chatham from Orleans, where a selection of his home furnishing and décor items are for sale.
Most of Feen’s work is custom; he estimates he spends about 20 percent of his time working for commercial customers and 80 percent working with homeowners. Sometimes those categories overlap.
Sandy Wycoff, the owner of Chatham Clothing Bar, a retail store on Main Street, is one client who displays Feen’s work in both her business and her home. Wycoff’s store is in a building that dates from the 1800s and still has its original tile floor and tin ceiling; the shop’s name is a nod to the building’s former life as a liquor store.
“It’s important to me to have fixtures that fit with the age of the building,” Wycoff says.
When Wycoff wanted to display wine glasses, Feen built her a cabinet out of old shutters. When she needed a movable clothing rack to hold men’s shirts and shorts, he crafted one out of metal pipe from an old blanket factory and used an antique door for a shelf on the bottom. When she wanted a steamer trunk for a front window display, Feen found an old silver one and polished it up. “I start with what my need is,” she says. “Then Scott runs with it.”