“I’ve always had a love for trees,” says Megan Offner as to why she left New York City and a successful career as an advertising set-designer to start a sawmill. For years, she had watched wood materials being used to construct photo shoots, only to be tossed out at the end of the day. “It didn’t honor the life of these trees,” she says. So in 2010 she moved upstate and founded New York Heartwoods, a Warwick- and Kingston-based mill and lumber-processing center with a mission to reclaim wood and ensure that trees weren’t cut down in vain.
“The Northeast has an incredible quality and diversity” of wood, says Offner. But regulations preventing interstate transport and a lack of facilities mean local lumber is ground into wood chips, chopped into firewood, or landfilled. New York Heartwoods allows discarded lumber and trees that were felled by weather or disease or removed during property development to begin a second life, via its carpentry studio or sale to architects, designers, and woodworkers, as building materials or bespoke furniture and artfully crafted products. Offner is also launching a new line of wood paneling and mantelpieces.
Every log, she says, “tells a story. You see the growth rings, where insects have made their homes, where lightning has struck. It’s this unveiling of the tree’s history, and it’s great to be able to share that with others.”