Detroit-Based Brand Woodward ThrowBacks Affirm That Upcycled Home Goods Never Go Out of Style

If sustainability begins in the home, this couple has got it on point. Bo Shepherd and Kyle Dubay are founders of furniture design brand Woodward Throwbacks, a furnishings company in Detroit. The dynamic couple designs and builds furniture and interiors using reclaimed and salvaged materials they find throughout the city. Their new book, Throwbacks Home Interiors: One of a Kind Home Design from Reclaimed & Salvaged Goods, is a collection of some of their most innovative pieces.

Image: courtesy Woodward Throwbacks.

“Our love came mostly from being exposed to an environment where there was so much illegal dumping. It was commonplace in Detroit 10-plus years ago to have construction debris and housing parts just scattered about the streets,” they reveal to EBONY. “We started using these materials because they were free and fell in love with the honest wear of the material and the stories they told.”  

According to a report from the city’s Department of Public Works (DPW), about 700 tons—around the same weight as 20 humpback whales—of illegally dumped materials is collected in Detroit each week. This can create health hazards for the community and is generally an unpleasant sight. With the business they started in Woodward Throwbacks, Shepherd and Dubay continue to alleviate materials winding up in a landfill.

“Sustainability will be more important in the furniture and design industry going forward, and we want to be the leaders in showcasing what can be done with those materials,” the couple declares. “We believe our sustainable efforts are bringing a positive light to Detroit, which has been going through a huge resurgence. “Detroit has been cleaning up its act. There are now hefty fines for those caught dumping goods illegally. But the Woodward Throwbacks team’s commitment to reclaiming scrapped materials often thrown out from renovations and demolitions and then transforming them into reimagined, functional home goods remains. By collecting industrial castoffs from demolished buildings and other sites, they unveil the rich history of the Motor City. “A lot of change has happened and we want to preserve Detroit’s legacy, history and culture by saving materials and transforming them into our furniture.”

Image: courtesy Woodward Throwbacks.

For Earth Month, the couple shares these three tips to beautify your own home with reclaimed goods:

“When it comes to styling with sustainable materials in the home, we always encourage people to style with items that they truly love; whether it’s vintage from an antique store or even an object found on the road, it should bring you joy. 

‘If you’re on a budget, try shopping within your own home first. This means rearranging furniture and decor. Sometimes, furniture only works in one room, but instead of tossing it, see if you can style it in another room. You might be surprised how well it works. 

“Think outside the box when it comes to shopping. We are so quick to shop at big box stores that we are familiar with. But instead, check out your nearest antique mall or thrift stores. It will not only be an adventure, but you never know what special piece you didn’t know you needed.” 

Being earth-friendly warriors together has helped the couple sustain their love for one another. “We will always be passionate about sustainability because reclaimed materials are all around us. For us, sustainability is prolonging an existing object’s life and reimagining what it could be,” they tell EBONY. “It’s the hunt of finding new material and the challenge of figuring out how to envision a new use for that material that keeps our passion fresh. Every day is a treasure hunt and puzzle, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Updated: April 16, 2024 — 3:02 pm