Archdale company turns 55-gallon drums into home furnishings

Apr. 07, 2014 @ 01:00 AM

The proprietors behind a relatively new furniture manufacturer in Archdale march to the beat of their own drums.
Namely, the 55-gallon steel oil drums they use to create their unique furniture line.
“We know it’s a niche-type project,” says Rich Oakley, chief designer for Drum Works Furniture. “Obviously, not everyone wants an armchair made from a steel drum, but the people that like quirky or industrial or a retro-type feel, they really like what we do.”
The company launched last summer and debuted its repurposed furniture line at the fall High Point Market — and generated a bit of a buzz, according to Oakley. Now the owners hope to build on that initial success at the spring market, which officially began Saturday.
“We have bars that can be used for indoor or outdoor use — they’re all powder-coated so they can be used outdoors without worrying about rust,” says assembly supervisor Michael Ilardi, one of Oakley’s two partners (the other is Kevin Danko).
“We also have armchairs, shelving units, TV stands, and we’ve expanded from our standard armchair — we offer a wider version that is a loveseat.”
It was Oakley, who has a background as a car designer, that first came up with the idea of using the large steel drums to create armchairs and other furniture items. He enlisted Ilardi to help him, and they got busy making repurposed armchairs. Once they had some product, they began taking it to what Oakley calls “decorator-type flea markets” to gauge reaction.
“We discovered that repurposing is quite a big movement, but nobody is approaching it as a brand of furniture,” he says. “We’ve seen similar items, and they’re like arts and crafts projects, but we approach it like a brand. All our chairs have a similar design — you can recognize a Drum Works item just by the way it looks.”
The products have the effect of stopping people in their tracks, Oakley says.
“It kind of throws them a curve,” he explains. “It’s a recycled steel drum, but it’s as shiny and smooth as a brand new car.”
Drum Works gets the drums from an independent supply company that recycles them for industry.
“They’re already cleaned and prepped before we get them,” Oakley adds.
The chairs are professionally upholstered with Sunbrella fabric, which makes them suitable for outdoors.
Some of the chairs feature graphics. One of the more popular models, for example, is called Memphis Belle and features artwork similar to that on the famous World War II bomber of the same name. The Memphis Belle features another unique touch — bulletholes.
Retail prices vary slightly, but the average price for a Drum Works armchair is about $560, according to the owners.
“Demographically, we have found that both men and women of a wide age group like what we do,” Oakley says. “People always walk up and say, ‘This is mancave stuff,’ and they’re always surprised when we tell them that women like it, too.” | 888-3579


For more information about Drum Works Furniture of Archdale, including a large gallery of product photos, visit the company’s website at