From building with Legos to rebuilding cars to…interior design? It turns out, a distinct piece of what’s trending in interior design these days overlaps with rebuilding automobiles—at least for Steven McAtee (rustedboltdesigns.com), a local industrial furniture designer and builder.
“I’ve always been a car guy,” Steven says. “And, the more you work on cars, the more discarded parts you end up with. I began building industrial furniture because I needed things for my apartment. When I needed a coffee table, I dug through my pile of leftover car parts, pieced things together, and built myself a coffee table [an engine block with a glass top]. Eventually, my family got excited and wanted some furniture I was building, so I realized what great gift ideas they would be. Ultimately, they talked me into selling the furniture, and here we are now.”
Besides acknowledging a need and putting together pieces to meet that need, Steven says he sometimes comes at the design concept from the other side.
“I’ll look at a pile of parts and think, ‘Oh, if I move this over here, that could turn into a lamp or something else’—kind of like playing with Legos. I come at it from one direction or the other and keep working at it until it comes together.”
Car parts translate into some delightfully unexpected designs. If it’s a matched set of lamps you desire, Steven accomplishes this by using parts that have a pair on each car—like the springs from each side of the front of the car. However, since there is only one crankshaft in each car, his crankshaft tables will be slightly different from each other, even if they look similar. Although Steven primarily uses re-purposed car parts in his designs, there are some items he has to obtain new because once they’ve worn out in the car, they retain zero aesthetic or functional integrity. Spark plugs, for example.
Steven explains, “This lamp has a distributor cap on the bottom—that’s the red piece which distributes spark to spark plugs—and these are spark plugs, these curly wires; then the spark plugs come up into the base right below the bowl, and it’s just an air filter for the shade. All those parts have to be new.”
One particular vision of Steven’s is to obtain more parts from older, unique cars, or ones that have more of a story behind them. Perhaps there’s an old car that won many races at the local track until the driver blew a chunk out of the side of the engine. Or imagine, having to part with that old car you were in love with, but it died and it needs to go to the junk yard because it can’t sit in the driveway anymore. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful gift to have the parts of that car turned into furniture for a family room or “man cave”?
“I would also like to start pulling abandoned vehicles off of farmer’s fields (especially in Montana where there is probably an abundance of old vehicles sitting in fields),” Steven says. “I don’t want to pick them up and haul them to a junk yard. There’s perfectly good stuff that could be re-purposed. I can clean up the unsightly parts and turn them into awesome furniture, and even help save the planet a little bit along the way.”
So, if you’re a designer looking to support a local artisan, check out Steven McAtee of Rusted Bolt Designs. He’s making the jump from mechanic to artist to environmentalist with sui generis, practical, and essentially indestructible car-parts furniture.