In an era of disposability I am constantly inspired by people making usable works of art that are meant to last a lifetime. The Wooden Palate founders Eileen O'Ddea and Ryan Silverman do just that. While their work extends into all aspects of interior woodwork, their kitchen tools – and my now beloved salt cellar are how we connected. Most of us grew up with quick fix serving pieces, and random stocking sprees to Target or Ikea. As part of any measure of sustainability, it is important to look at our purchases and consider the longevity. The Wooden Palate makes pieces that are true heirlooms, and when cared properly for will last forever. With most of us cooking at home more, it's the perfect time to invest in one of their works of art.
Thank you Eileen for chatting with us!
1 - Your 3 word bio:
Woodworker, designer, dogmom
2 - Tell us briefly how you started working with wood, and what you love most about working with this medium?
I started when I met my husband 11-11-11. I wanted to get into his woodshop and learn everything, he’s a wonderful, patient teacher.
I love so many things about wood! I love that white oak can be light white, fumed brown or ebonized black to create such different looks and feels to each piece. I love that we take down whole trees and let them be our muse for bowls, tables and trays. I love the soft grain of walnut and the detailed textured grain of oak. I love that we are giving trees a second life to live in our homes with us.
3 - Creativity is part of starting any brand, but I really feel like woodwork is very unique. You're doing more than just creating a consumer good. These are pieces that potentially last a lifetime. I find that to be super cool, and really special. Tell us a little bit about the philosophy behind the pieces you create?
We want you to love the tools you use everyday like you love a handbag or a piece of furniture. We want to take things that are thought of as “pedestrian” and elevate them to usable artwork for your kitchen. We want you to love each piece from us so much that you pass it down to your children and grandchildren.
4 - Sustainability is very important to your work. Can you tell us about your approach, and you're sourcing?
When sourcing wood, we only buy plantation grown. We also use locally fallen trees as much as we can, taking the trees down and slabbing them out ourselves. The old growth (100-200 year old) trees have such a magic and history that younger trees just don’t. The grain, the color and the tree itself has so many stories to tell that come out every time we make an ice bucket or a bath tray I feel absurdly lucky to give these majestic beauties a second life.
5 - I read a little bit about being cautious with using reclaimed wood because of the prior treatment it may have gone through. I feel like people read "reclaimed" and they automatically think it's better. I've become more aware of this aspect when selecting anything vintage that will touch food. It's definitely not always the safer choice. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
It is something to be considered heavily. We don’t use a ton of reclaimed woods. The Atlantic City boardwalk wood we use for salt cellars and rolling pins was originally the support beams underneath the boardwalk and they were never treated with any chemicals.Antique beams that will be on your ceiling, not serving your food, are a sealed system, coated with modern finishes that completely seal anything inside.
6 - I feel like we connected over food even though we've never had a meal together! You have a background as both a yogi and a chef. Tell me a little bit about your food philosophy?
I believe we should eat locally and seasonally. That is when food tastes it’s very best and doesn’t need to be covered in condiments to taste good..I grew up with a mom that could really cook! And she was never afraid to try making a new dish, even if it was for the first time and she was throwing a dinner party. I grew up in the 80s but my mom never bought the craft singles or white bread. She made the whole wheat heavy ass loafs we would toast for breakfast, she was making quinoa and using kale before anyone knew what it was..and she made everything taste divine..one of my favorite things to do when I travel is to take cooking classes or get in the kitchen with someone who will teach me to cook like a local. I learned to make empanadas in Argentina and phad see ew in Thailand.. then get home excited to find the stores that carry similar items to recreate the dishes. I love to learn new recipes and especially vegan ones. I think they are so creative, finding ways to create a dish without the conventional ingredients.
7 - What are some of the rituals and routines that enable you to work at your highest level of creativity?
A workout first thing in the morning sets my mind and body off to great start. Since covid, I’ve worked out with a friend on the front porch 6 days a week. We do a mix of cardio/weight/plyo or yoga, trading off each day. I get to be outside, under the trees and the beautiful sky. I look forward to it every day.
At the end of the day I put on music, light all the candles and make us dinner. It allows me to think about the day but also to let it flow off my shoulders and start to wind down.
8 - What is your advice for working/existing in a romantic partnership?
Give yourself some space when you need it. Have a date night where you don’t just talk about work! Ours is every Saturday. We dress up and make cocktails or open wine, make dinner and just have a good time with each other.
Do your best to communicate really well. If you think you need to see a therapist to untangle something that keeps cropping up, do it. No one else will have your back in business like your partner. It’s a stability that I’ve never known until now. Whenever I’m stuck or have a problem on anything..designs, clients, employees, Ryan is always there to just listen or to help me work through it.
9 - What is your philosophy when it comes to skincare and/or 'self-care’?
I love taking care of my skin! It’s sensitive, and sawdust can be drying and cause breakouts for me. I wash my face as soon as I get home from the shop and apply a calming serum and moisturizer.
My self care is getting my nails done (after waiting a year) a facial &!lymphatic drainage massage once a month and my morning workouts.
10 - Your top 3 life essentials (products, rituals, music, foods - anything)?
11 - What did you learn from 2020 as both a business and a person?
That we were incredibly lucky to be able to stay in business and keep all of our employees working. And that staying home could be really wonderful and quiet and fun and beautiful. I’m a master at the outdoor dining now. It’s all about strategically placed heat lamps.
12 - What are you excited about for 2021? Tell us anything!
Concerts, museums, traveling and hugging my friends.