This story originally ran in our March 2015 issue. The Yellow Chair Market store in Carr Mill Mall closed in May 2016 but Amy is still focused on custom projects out of her studio. Visit her website for more information.
Not all kids grow up using power tools, but Amy Caylor and her three siblings did. “Now when I think about it, I can’t believe we have all our fingers,” Amy says. With (supervised) encouragement from their contractor dad and furniture-refinishing mom, Amy and her siblings were given room to be creative. She received her own drafting table in middle school and then went on to earn her master’s in architecture and spent years working for different architecture firms in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area. When she went the freelance route, she took jobs that allowed her to focus on the more creative aspects of architecture like model building.
Between her projects and her growing family’s move to Boston, Amy tinkered with repurposing scraps in the barn of their 1800s home. “As soon as we got there and started working on [refinishing the house], I just started making things out of old furniture and old wood and selling it on Craigslist,” she says. She grew a large customer base in the New England area, selling industrial tables, furniture and a namesake yellow chair at pop-up markets and vintage bazaars. “The thing that attracts me is the fact that old stuff had such a purpose before. People … hand made things, and they last so long, long enough that we can keep them and use them today,” Amy says. In her hands, auto ramps are combined with a piece of wood to become a hall table. She’s turned old apple baskets into pendant lights that cast beautiful shadows. “I’m drawn to certain things that I feel like I can already picture being something else,” she says. “Definitely when it comes to the dirtier, the rustier, the better.”
When her family relocated to Carrboro in 2013, she felt a familiar itch. “[That] December, I started thinking I’ve got to do something,” she recalls. “I want to be building and making things.” She found the ideal space for a retail store and showroom in Carr Mill Mall and opened in April. “After I came in, I thought, ‘It’s a repurposed building; it’s perfect.’” Amy says. “I couldn’t have asked for a better space for my first store.” The location has proved to be serendipitous, leading to commissions for several local stores and restaurants.
The Craigslist junkie doesn’t have to search as hard now that she’s befriended local couples who like to shop estate and yard sales. “They call me when they are back from a big run and say, ‘We have an Amy pile we think you’re going to love,’” she says. “Since I do have the store and I am in my workshop all the time, it is so helpful to have all those extra eyes looking for me.” But Amy does make sure she’s always got her own eyes open in case she spots something. Once, she pulled over to the side of road and called her husband, telling him to “bring the truck – I’m going to sit right here so no one takes [this piece].”
These days you can order yourself a rustic wood table from a catalog or the mall, but Amy encourages shoppers to consider authentic pieces. “People made things so well back then, and there’s all this character built in. It’s stuff that people are faking now,” she says. “I’ll make ‘new’ farm tables, but it’s all out of 300-year-old reclaimed wood.” Her philosophy is if you’re really going to get a table that kids might make fork marks in, look for one that has already been weathered and used. “It’s been around a long time. It’s lasted, and it’s going to last for as long as they need it.”
Check out the Yellow Chair Market’s reclaimed, repurposed and recycled pieces here.