They’re everywhere -- those wooden pallets stacked by store dumpsters, waiting for the trash collector and a final resting place at the county landfill. But when Richie Mukhuti runs across a pallet, he sees potential.
For the past year, Mukhuti has been recycling discarded pallets into tables, chairs, and benches of his own design. At first, the furniture was just a hobby, but when neighbors saw his work, they started getting interested. And then they started placing orders.
“When Sara and I first moved to Altadena, our place needed a lot of work – fences, garden furniture. And I guess the idea just came to me, maybe because my brother once made a futon out of pallets.”
The benches, even without cushions, are surprisingly comfortable, partly because Mukhuti is very particular about the pitch of the seat and the back, and partly because the wood gets a whole lot of prep work. “Sanding is the biggest pain,” he says, “because of course the last thing you want are splinters.”
Depending on the piece, Mukhuti spends a minimum of a day on the design and prepping; sometimes the pallets are kept intact, other times dismantled. His latest work-in-progress is a table with a well in the middle. “A place for your ice bucket and beer.”
His garden furniture can be found not only in many backyards near Mukhuti's and Sara Pereira's home on Santa Anita Avenue, but further afield, as well. He recently designed a set of chairs for the Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company in Buellton.
Does he take customized orders? “Funny you should ask. Someone just ordered an L-shaped sofa, so I’m working on that. And I’ve made a porch swing.”
Their own garden serves as a pallet laboratory. And not just for furniture. Mukhuti and Pereira joined forces to create a “green wall” for their backyard. Succulents grow inside the slats of the fence on one side, and there’s recycled galvanized steel on the other. “It was our compromise,” says Pereira. “Richie wanted steel, and I wanted plants. Now we're both happy.”
To contact Mukhuti, visit woodenpalletman.com.