Randy and Belinda Smotherman, of Smotherman Antiques, stand next to a 1840s cherry corner cupboard. TMP/T. Swann
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
From ceramic mugs that mimic Starbucks coffee cups to plastic straw-and-cup combos that look like nicer versions of McDonalds paper drink cups, reusable products run the gamut.
Eco-friendly and green techniques have been popular for years, but one local business has taken the idea a step further.
For more than 30 years, Smotherman Antiques has saved hundreds of trees from being cut down for furniture use.
“We were going green before going green was cool,” Randy Smotherman says of the downtown Murfreesboro business owned with his wife, Belinda.
He pointed to a cherry sideboard that was built in Davidson County in 1814.
“You can imagine how many times it’s been recycled,” he said. “The majority of our furniture pieces are going to date from around 1810 -- from 1790 up until 1860s.”
These pre-Civil War-era pieces were built of solid wood with longevity in mind. Smotherman attributes their vitality to “the pride that the craftsmen had in their work and the quality.”
“They actually built things to last over a lifetime, unlike the furniture you buy today,” he said. “The majority of the furniture you buy now is about 75 percent glue, and the rest is sawdust particles and veneer.”
Not only does the furniture last, but its story is passed on, as well.
“We try to get the provenance history of how (pieces) were passed down thru family and where they originally built,” Smotherman said. “Sometimes we get pieces that were actually built locally by craftsman here in Middle Tennessee and have never left Middle Tennessee. If the info is there, we get it and pass it along with the antiques. It makes one person happy, and when they’re gone, another person gets to be happy with it.”
Obviously, some antiques can be pricey, but Smotherman says the cost is worth the investment.
“It’s really refreshing to see that I do have a lot of young people buying antiques; they buy one good piece at a time,” he said, adding that the shop offers financing just like other furniture stores.
“The thing is, if somebody would take the time … I don’t think they stopped to realize how much buying an antique has done for the earth and how much it will continue doing so.”
Antiques can often by repurposed to better suit an individual’s style, added Mimi Davis Keisling, environmental education coordinator for Rutherford County.
“Lots of people will take an old antique wardrobe and make it into a TV cabinet,” she said. “I would encourage citizens, especially younger couples that are just starting out who may not be able to afford finer antiques, to look at second-hand stores and flea markets. Look for quality pieces that appear to be durable, and they can either finish or repaint them.”
Even antique styles are durable. Classic shapes and details of antiques are oftentimes incorporated into modern pieces, Keisling said.
“Also, from an environment perspective, any time you’re reusing or repurposing a piece of furniture, you’re making less waste (by) not sending it to the landfill,” she added. “And you’re supporting a different segment of the economy because it’s a local shopkeeper.”
From guitars to yard furniture, Smotherman says much of it has lasted because and what has survived is still being recycled.
“It’s not just old furniture – we have a punchbowl that was sitting on somebody’s dining room table in 1861 during the Civil War,” he said.
“Just about everything in the household that was used in the 1700s and 1800s you can recycle because of the quality and craftsmanship.”