Home & Garden

Turning Doomed Old Houses Into Eye-Catching Art

Hang a piece of Nashville history on your wall—or serve it up on a platter—with meaningful pieces from 1767 Designs

Photo: Courtesy of 1767 Designs

There’s a certain kind of magic in old houses, whether you’re restoring a home to its original glory or just daydreaming about moving across the country for one. Likewise, it’s always a little heartbreaking to see a time-tested beauty demolished, even if you realize you’d never have been able to fix the place up yourself. Patrick Hayes knows the feeling well. “It’s really a shame,” says the founder of Nashville’s 1767 Designs. “You have this town with such a rich history, and beautiful homes that were built with such an attention to craftsmanship and quality. These homes deserve a better fate than to just be thrown away.” 

Hayes can’t save every beautiful old house in Middle Tennessee from demolition, but he has figured out a way for their old bones to enjoy a second life. His company, 1767 Designs, repurposes discarded wood from torn-down homes into coffee tables, wall hangings, and even custom-built geometric installations such as the ones at Music City hotspots Urban Cowboy and the Thompson Hotel. The idea sparked in 2014, when Hayes bought a small bundle of wood from a neighbor in Franklin whose contracting job left him with an abundance of the stuff. “He said, ‘Why do you want that? It’s garbage,’” Hayes recalls. Undeterred, he paid a fair price for the stack, ultimately using it to build his first coffee table on the balcony of his apartment. “The rest is history.” 

photo: Courtesy of 1767 Designs
A 1767 Designs installation in Nashville’s Urban Cowboy.

A few projects later, Hayes booked a booth to sell his furniture at the Nashville Flea Market. To his surprise, a customer asked if she could buy the coffee table without the legs: She wanted to hang it on the wall. “That was a light bulb moment for me,” he says. “This is art, and it can function like that in any respect.” As 1767 Designs continued to grow—from balcony to garage to studio space to storefront, and from a single artisan to a team of twelve—the company also expanded into hangable wall art and other stylistic offerings such as a serving tray and shelving, with custom-built commissions available alongside an increasing number of limited-edition statement pieces. 

photo: Courtesy of 1767 Designs
A serving tray, one of the newer offerings from 1767.

Each design sold gets tagged with information about the materials used to create it, including the year the house that supplied the wood was built. And while the studio’s most recognizable works may be larger displays in restaurants and bars, 1767 Designs offers plenty of smaller pieces, too. “I want anyone to be able to have a piece of what we’re doing,” Hayes says. “Art is meant to be shared and enjoyed.” 

photo: Courtesy of 1767 Designs
Work from 1767 Designs at the Fox Bar & Cocktail Club in Nashville.

For all the success of his company, Hayes still doesn’t necessarily consider himself a woodworker, and he’s quick to correct anyone who mistakes 1767 Designs for a one-man operation. Every job is a team effort, and employees share the task of salvaging wood from demolitions, stripping out nails or other construction debris, and conceptualizing new collections. The work continues to attract a particularly eclectic group of makers. “We’ve found that those are our people: people who are inspired to create in some way, whatever their medium is,” says Hayes, noting that the pandemic has added even more artists and musicians to the company’s ranks as tour cancellations have grounded many Nashville creatives. “I think we’d have a pretty slammin’ 1767 house band,” he jokes, “if we ever wanted to start one.”

photo: Courtest of 1767 Designs
Goldfinch, one of several pieces in the forthcoming Birdsall Collection.

For inquiries of the non-musical variety, check out what 1767 Designs has available for immediate purchase on the company website. The forthcoming Birdsall Collection, a line of statement art inspired by the native birds of Tennessee, is now available for preorder. And if you happen to know of a doomed old home you can’t bear to see go, 1767 Designs can accommodate requests with your materials, too, transforming a disappointing loss into a pretty piece of the past you can continue to cherish.