Skilled carpenters remodeled an uptown cosmetics boutique using entirely reclaimed wood from old barns and industrial buildings.
Lush Cosmetics opened its newly expanded and refurbished shop last week.
Sourcing the materials was local Pioneer Millworks reclaimed and sustainable wood products, which is located in Southeast Portland and in Farmington, New York. However, all the furnishings were made by Lush's in-house woodshop — which recently moved to its own newly updated $1 million facility last spring.
Getting wood, but not cutting it
Lush's woodshop manager Rob Moreira spoke with the Business Tribune about the partnership with Portland's Pioneer Millworks. He's been working in Lush's woodshop for 20 years, before all the stores were made of reclaimed timber. At the time he started, there were only about five Lush stores in North America.
Around 2012, they were introduced to Pioneer Millworks.
"We were doing some of our bigger shops in the reclaimed wood," Moreira said. "We did a full switchover in 2014, so everything now is made with the reclaimed lumber."
Since Pioneer Millworks is based in Oregon and in New York, they source wood from all over the U.S. from old grain silos, barns and corral boards for cattle.
"There's pine, spruce, fir, a real mix, which gives it a good color variance," Moreira said. "That's our motto, try not to bring down the forest. Even the pine we were using before, the forest companies we got it from weren't clear-cutting. This is better, now we're getting wood, not cutting down wood."
However, working with reclaimed wood isn't smooth going.
"It's a little harder because they come in various thicknesses," Moreira said. "Before, the pine all came standard-size. This, you look at it wrong and you'll get a splinter. It's a lot of different sizes and thicknesses and takes a little longer to work with it."
Lush made sure to work with a local partner to breathe new life into old wood by creating fittings, shelves and walls for all of Lush's eco-conscious refurbs, so that each store across the continent has a piece of the Pacific Northwest in it.
The eco-conscious Lush Cosmetics uptown is a concept shop: at 1,260 square feet, it's twice the size of the average U.K.-based brand's store. The brand handmakes cosmetics from fresh fruit, vegetables, essential oils and ethically and sustainably sourced materials — and the products are also vegetarian and never tested on animals.
Lush recently built a $1 million woodshop facility, and its woodshop team moved in this May. They hired more people and are up to 18.
"It's a much better flow: the wood comes in this way, travels in a U around the offices, comes out the other way, we wrap the furniture and are off to the store," Moreira said.
Moreira said their new goal is to refurbish four to six shops per month.
"We're not there yet, we're almost at three (per month) and we're slowly getting faster," Moreira said. "It's a lot more work with the reclaimed (wood), but in the end, it looks a lot better and is more ethical."
The woodshop builds everything inside the Lush store from the tables, bookshelves, cabinets and shelving to display units.
Taking inspiration from Lush's giant flagship shop along Oxford Street in London, the new shop also features vintage school chairs for one-on-one product consultations, while a porcelain sink for bath bomb and bubble demos is another striking furnishing.
"We are very excited about our new large format location in Portland," said Elisa Torres, Lush's director of retail. "Bigger shops, thoughtfully designed with the customer experience in mind, provide more space to demonstrate our ethics, playfully interact with our customers, and present our new and ever-growing product range."
Lush has 250 retail shops in North America alone, and 30 of them are also slated for significant renovations this year. There are 930 Lush shops worldwide.
Investing in ethical practices
The store's expansion took roughly five months, but the shop started remodeling the store last winter.
Shop Design Manager Tiffany Sanderson told the Business Tribune the idea of the remodel was to double the store's size and bring the old pine store up to the current brand standard, using reclaimed fixtures and achieving a market-vibe experience.
"All of the wood you see in the shop is reclaimed from a local supplier in Portland, in line with Lush's long held commitment to be environmentally friendly and minimize our carbon footprint," Sanderson said. "Our woodshop also finds ways of building the furniture a certain way that minimizes waste and off-cuts, meaning every piece of wood that can be turned into something, is."
Additionally, Lush uses environmentally friendly paint in the new stores.
As for the budget, "there is a bit of a markup for using reclaimed wood, as opposed to new materials, but Lush has always preferred to invest in ethical practices and suppliers, whether that's the sourcing wood we use, the ingredients we buy or the compostable packaging we use to ship out our products — so it's a price we're prepared to pay to allow us to stay close to our values," Sanderson said.
Her design team consists of one visual merchandiser, one shop designer (Sanderson) and 10-15 construction workers including Lush's in-house project manager.
The team came up against some challenges during the demolition.
"We discovered two columns in the middle of the space after demolition and then had to quickly act to change the design slightly so it works for our staff and customers, giving them the most room to move around the shop and explore," Sanderson said. "The age of the building and the fact that it was an expansion, as opposed to starting afresh in the new shop (was a challenge)."
But she said Portland's uptown Lush shop stood out among the brand's other shop's updates.
"This is a really special shop for us. Rarely do we have shops that are in quaint beautiful neighborhoods that have good bones architecturally (large storefront windows, tons of natural light and high ceilings) so it's been a treat to work on," Sanderson said. "We also have a really loyal customer base here so it felt good as a company to give back to the neighborhood with a beautiful, bigger shop for all to enjoy."
By Jules Rogers
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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