Urban Evolutions and the art of story telling

The best parts of the beautiful flooring, furniture, and accessories created by Urban Evolutions are the stories they tell.

Born on the inner circles of rich wood, hand-hewn, proudly raised, and painstakingly restored, they speak for strong trees, proud structures and talented builders.

The company itself grew from a story.

After a fire nearly destroyed their 1890s farmhouse, Urban Evolutions Founders Jeff and Robin Janson rebuilt it by researching, then locating, then restoring materials that maintained the home’s integrity.

That project formed the impetus for a company that now supplies reclaimed building materials, fixtures, and a line of furnishings and accessories for homes and businesses internationally.

Among their many corporate accounts are Burberry. Anthropologie, and Sundance. Private clients include Robert Redford and Ashton Kutcher.

On Friday our friend Ella Janson and her dad Jeff gave me a tour of their business, located right here in Appleton.

Molly and I had been wowed by their showroom on a previous trip to the store. It turns out, that only accounts for 10% of the company’s business.

The main work happens behind the magic curtain and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit there. A thousand stories called out from all the old barn wood and mill floorboards stored there. A thousand more stories waited to be told from the repurposed bed frames, tables and merchandise racks ready to be shipped throughout the country and across the pond.

If you live in the area, treat yourself to a trip to Urban Evolutions. If you can’t make it to Appleton, the coolest little city on the planet, check them out online.

Ella and Jeff
My tour guides Ella and her dad Jeff Janson.
Barn door hutch
Here’s an example from the showroom floor of a hutch built with repurposed wood and designed to look like more like barn doors. It’s a beautiful piece.
Fall into Urban
The entrance to the showroom hints at all the cool things you’ll find within.
Tony Gonzalez restores chalkboard
This is a school house chalkboard being resurfaced.
Bed frames
Bed frames made from restored wood ready for shipment. Ashton Kutcher and Robert Redford have both purchased bed frames from Urban Evolutions.
Ella and Jeff in the office
This is a conference room that overlooks the warehouse. The mirror in which you see Jeff reflected is from his high school in Rockford, Illinois.
Floor samples
These are the types of wood flooring available through Urban Evolutions. All of this wood enjoyed a first act as walls or floors in old farms and factories.
Glass roof
The roof of this entrance is made of repurposed glass.
Linoleum trays
These trays are made of old linoleum.
The drying room
The warehouse drying room is a toasty place. Many of the walls are built from old billboards. One room includes a billboard from the 2011 Super Bowl. I like the “Together we hope” message here because that’s just what this business is all about.
Metal flooring
The embedded metal circles identify these as 19th century floorboards. They are painstakingly removed from each board before the wood is refurbished.
Lunchroom
The Urban Evolutions lunchroom is a cool as you would imagine it to be.

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