Collin Diller revamps trash-to-treasure in his laguna beach workshop
Two years ago, Collin Diller was a full-time college student in need of a new table. Rather than peruse Craigslist or navigate Ikea, the Laguna Beach resident decided to make his own. The son of a retired general contractor, Diller had access to “every tool under the sun.” Working at a lumberyard, he could also get his hands on plenty of free or discounted wood. What started as a plan for a simple, utilitarian table turned into a months-long labor of love and a beautiful teak, cherry and walnut piece.
Since then, Diller, 29, has turned woodworking into his full-time pursuit, creating various hardwood and reclaimed wood furniture pieces ($40-$800) through his home-based Dharma Designed business. He especially loves plucking old windows or shutters from the trash and turning them into tables or shelving. “Most of this scrap material comes from old cottages or houses in Laguna Beach, which makes it even more special because it’s truly vintage!” he says.
THE INSPIRATION Leaving his job at the lumberyard meant losing access to deeply discounted hardwoods. “I transitioned into reclaimed woods that were cheap and easily accessible,” Diller recalls. He was inspired by the trash-to-treasure transformations. “The greatest joy that comes out of my work is turning an abandoned, ordinary pallet or crate into a work of art,” he adds.
THE PROCESS The first step in working with discarded pallets is salvaging usable pieces. “As pallets are generally not used to make furniture, they oftentimes are constructed out of scrap wood and are beat-up and in need of extreme TLC,” Diller says. Meticulous sanding and treatment with nontoxic materials gives the wood a rustic, sun-bleached appearance.
SPECIAL DELIVERIES Diller once had a customer request a reclaimed wood headboard. Having never made one, he was hesitant at first. But, he was pleased with the results – and found a new favorite type of project. “I can go crazy with them!” he says excitedly. “The more weathered, beat-up, warped piece of wood, the better!”
TRADE SECRETS Being self-taught, Diller admits much of his creative process involves trial and error. “A lot of my mistakes can just be incorporated into my work and many times add character to my final product,” he says. Sometimes, the mistakes are particularly personal. “From time to time, I find myself shooting a nail through my finger or getting my hand pulled through the belt sander,” he says. “Other than my mistakes and occasional injuries, I thoroughly and genuinely enjoy this hobby of mine.”–Steve Irsay