WHEN ALEX GERINER GRADUATED from college in 2008, he wanted to upgrade his dorm-room furniture, but funds were tight.
"I had this really beautiful, rundown apartment in Riverbend, but I didn't have money to spend," the Slidell native says. "So I made my own furniture."
Geriner looked up online examples of headboards made from repurposed doors. He crafted a similar piece, jazzing it up with ceiling tiles he'd found on Magazine Street. After a friend asked to order one, Geriner decided to sell his headboards on Etsy.
"[The first two headboards] sold immediately, within a week, both to California," Geriner says.
An advertising agency employee with a degree in communications, Geriner leveraged his marketing knowledge while launching Doorman Designs (www.doormandesigns.com), doing all his own photography and promotions. He began by selling his pieces on Etsy and since has branched out to offer orders through his website. In 2011, he left his job in advertising to devote himself to his business. He now employs one full-time and one part-time worker in his 1,300-square-foot studio.
"We run errands, source materials, sand a bunch of stuff, glue and screw things together and get hot, sweaty and dirty," he says. "I never saw myself doing this, but I absolutely love it."
Doorman Designs has expanded to include custom tables, desks, nightstands, upholstered headboards, lamps and lighting. It ships to customers worldwide and has been featured on ApartmentTherapy.com.
"I have stuff all over the country and in almost every continent," he says. "Afghanistan, Brazil, Hong Kong, Scotland, Australia, North and South America ... it's everywhere."
Though Geriner has an international client list, he has just begun to gain local recognition, he says. Most of his customers have never visited Louisiana, but Geriner says they feel a connection to the furniture's story. Geriner handpicks cypress, poplar, fir and heart pine from contractors and demolition crews.
"A lot of the wood I use is from [Hurricane] Katrina-damaged homes," he says. "There's a lot of wood that needs a happy home."
The rear room of his studio is filled with bargeboard and weathered planks from razed structures, many hung with faded scraps of wallpaper. Geriner preserves fragile strips of antique newspapers and flour sacks he finds attached to the planks as a form of insulation. Some of the bargeboard planks salvaged from 19th-century homes are large enough to suggest they came from trees dating to the 1600s.
"It was a tree, then it was a barge, then it was a house and now it's a desk," Geriner says of his repurposed wood. "I feel I am letting these old, historic, beautiful pieces of wood continue to tell their story."