Building a business on reclaimed materials
Career change leads to artful recycling at ReCoop Designs
From before he can remember, Cooper Meaders, owner of the Heights-based artisan workshop ReCoop Designs, knew he wanted to be a Marine. “There was no talking me out of it,” Meaders says. “I thought I was going to go career, or stay in until I retired or got hurt.”
The story of how he ended up a wood, metal and stone craftsman, however, is a bit more serendipitous.
After leaving his job as a combat engineer in the U.S. Marine Corps and earning a degree in biology in 2011, Meaders accepted a job as a “strong back” for famed Houston designer Gin Braverman. The plan was to earn some extra cash before Meaders applied for a master’s degree in prosthetics and orthotics, but that’s not how it panned out.
During his work for Braverman, Meaders embraced life as a hands-on wood and metal artisan in design-focused places like Oxheart restaurant. Over arduous months of immersive learning, Meaders developed a passion for viable, living art—working with locally sourced materials. “If you had told me I’d be doing something like this a few years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you,” he says.
Before Meaders and his brother Daniel broke off to form ReCoop Designs and Salvaged Wood Sawmill—which provides sawmill, tree felling and lumber sales alongside ReCoop—they constructed modern-forward furnishings in the Rice Village furniture store New Living and discovered that their works were being purchased within hours. That’s when the duo understood they had enough vision, talent and courage to go their own way.
“I fell in love with the diversity of the job over time,” Meaders says. “One day we might be in a field bucking a tree, getting it down and milling it. The next day we might be doing sawmill work. Then we might be woodworking, steelworking, rolling zinc and doing copper lighting. Two days later, we might be at a show. It’s the diversity of the work that keeps it interesting.”
After four years in business at ReCoop, Meaders and his team have developed a clientele ranging from homeowners to local businesses, mainly through word-of-mouth referrals. The workshop collaborates on building repurposed brutalist and industrial-style wood and metal furniture, awe-provoking lighting and rustic art to sell on showroom floors and shows like the bi-annual Original Round Top Antiques Fair.
Siphon Coffee owner Michael Caplan commissioned ReCoop to build rustic pieces from reclaimed wood, live-edge mesquite and recycled plate steel in his popular Montrose coffeehouse and appreciated the results so much that he’s contracting them again for his new Greenway coffee project CAVO.
“I could tell right away that they were immensely talented and dedicated to what they do,” Caplan says. “I like that their pieces have a narrative to them, and a lot of the materials they use would end up being tossed away” otherwise.
As for the materials he utilizes, Meaders says that most are sourced within a 10-mile radius of ReCoop. “It’s more about recycling and repurposing than branding ourselves as local,” Meaders says. “We have so many resources available to us right here that there’s not a need to drive too far for anything. If you can spend a day pulling a house down and put a little energy into something that’s just going to go to a landfill, it’s worth it. I’d rather see those materials be transformed into something new.”
Perhaps one of his most impressive repurposing efforts is his collaboration with the Battleship Texas Foundation. Meaders and other artisans recently acquired salvaged materials from the ship during a restoration. The ReCoop team then incorporated the historic materials into a handful of new furnishings and a portion of the proceeds was donated to the Phoenix Patriot Foundation, an organization that provides support to wounded veterans.
“As a veteran, it’s an honor to utilize those materials and give back,” Meaders says. “There’s even a Carnegie stamp right in the metal.”
In the coming months, Meaders and his team plan to relocate to a new Oak Forest location to expand their showroom and display even more of their sought-after renderings. With the fresh space, the team looks forward to executing even more custom pieces.
“We love taking someone’s vision and bringing it to life,” Meaders says. “There’s nothing like seeing someone’s face when they see an idea turned into a finished product.”