Old industrial buildings are an increasingly popular venue for urban spelunkers who enjoy a good crawl through crumbling hotels and abandoned hospitals to capture the wreckage with their smartphones. How to combine those two seemingly contradictory aesthetics by marrying decrepit structures with these sleek, handheld computers?
That thought stuck in the mind of David Meyers, a 25-year old designer who grew up in Detroit, a city known for tumbledown ruins.
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His idea: An iPhone skin crafted with lumber reclaimed from old buildings. The result, a juxtaposition of weathered and aged wood hugging chic but sterile iPhones. The skins are so true-to-life they even include the addresses of the buildings from which they were salvaged.
Meyers works for a small company called Reclaimed Cleveland, which carefully disassembles houses at a rate of one per week and uses the salvaged materials to make everything from pub tables to wall art. Using the street address on the back of the iPhone skin, you can “visit” the buildings that provided the lumber, pre-demolition, through photos on Reclaimed Cleveland’s website.
Personalizing smartphones is a booming industry, of course, and Reclaimed Cleveland is not the first company to use vintage materials. A quick Etsy search will lead to iPhone accessories claiming to be made of recycled plastic bottles, recycled denim, recycled book covers, even recycled leather.
Recycled Cleveland’s skins are crafted from two kinds of salvaged wood: southern yellow pine salvaged from old homes in Cleveland, and the pecan wood of a demolished Chrysler stamping plant in Twinsburg, Ohio. Stamping plants are where massive presses smash sheets of metal into fenders, hoods, and other auto parts. The Twinsburg plant’s floor was made of pecan blocks because they could withstand the ceaseless vibrations better than concrete.
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“Some people buy a skin for environmental reasons,” says Meyers — that is, to keep a piece of lumber out a landfill. “Some buy it for aesthetic reasons. It’s a fashion statement.”
A mild adhesive secures the skin to the iPhone’s back, and the skin is thin, about the thickness of Kraft single. As such, it adds very little weight or mass, but it won’t protect the sides of the phone or absorb a serious beating. So, if you’re a chronic phone-dropper, this might not be the product for you. As Meyers put it: “This skin is not going to protect your phone from a 10-story fall.”
“For a lot of people, your phone is how you connect with the world,” he continues. “So, it says something about the kind of person you are when you cover a piece of sophisticated technology with wood from a 100-year old house.”
So far, the company has sold several hundred skins at $30 each. Unfortunately, the company has no plans to make skins for any other smartphone lines.
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