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Meet David Berens of ReFind Kitchens in Miramar

Today we’d like to introduce you to ReFind Kitchens and its founder, David Berens.

ReFind Kitchens began with a simple goal: to show that good design and good-for-the-planet are not mutually exclusive. We all want to live in beautiful, timeless homes. And, we all learned as children that the path to healthy consumptive behavior is “Reduce, Reuse, (Repair), Recycle.” Like “I” statements—and most other things we learn in kindergarten—, the three (or four) R’s tend to fall into disuse as we age.

At some point, the convenience and profitability of a disposable economy entice us to create houses that are pretty and shiny, but not necessarily beautiful or timeless. When the sheen wears off, we tear the houses down and bury them in Miramar. My mom and business partner, Juliann, and I want to change that by bringing residential construction into the circular economy.

She came to sustainable construction from nursing. In the late 90’s she thought often of why patients subject to long stays in healthcare facilities tended to get worse and not better. Seeing the built environment make people sicker brought her to study wellness and sustainability design. Eventually, she became a LEED AP, founded the Southern Arizona chapter of the US Green Building Council and opened her own sustainable interior design firm.

No doubt due in part to my mom, environmental stewardship is my vocation. It has taken many forms—farming, education, conservation biology—, but eventually, I returned to construction. What has a greater impact on the environment than our own built environment?

Four years ago, I was living and working as a handyman in Berkeley. There are many cool salvage and resale shops like Urban Ore and Ohmega Salvage, but I wondered if anyone helped the average homeowner figure out how to build with repurposed materials. I couldn’t find another entity that did. So, I asked my mom if she thought it would be possible to design a kitchen built out of a majority of repurposed, reused, and recycled materials while not sacrificing on design function or aesthetic. She said, “It’s worth a shot!” She was living in San Diego, so I moved down here to give it a go. Over the last three years, we have established an end-to-end service that deconstructs luxury homes and showrooms, sells the building materials, and provides the design vision necessary to create bespoke kitchens and baths.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I’d be hard pressed to think of any business that didn’t have its struggles. Ours are the following:

1. The perception that what is used is junk. We buy used luxury cars all the time. Why not a used luxury kitchen? They are equally well-built and maintained, and—through good design—we can adapt the cabinets to fit most houses.

2. How to bring together the craftsmen to execute our designs. For the designs to materialize, we need meticulous cabinetmakers, imaginative installers and skillful refinishers. This triumvirate of craftsmanship has taken the full three years to cultivate. We feel blessed every time we find someone who has the skill and patience to do things right.

3. Getting the word out that our process (higher quality, lower cost, zero waste) is an option in interior design. We’re still working on that. Thanks for telling our story!

Tell us about your business.
We specialize in zero-waste design. I like to say we design for people, planet and pocketbook. We are a triple-bottom-line benefit corporation that likes to make beautiful homes guilt-free (or as close as possible). I’m very proud of a project we recently completed on Mt. Helix. I feel it epitomizes our process in action. The client saved almost $75,000 versus buying new; we diverted 4,000 lbs. of building materials from landfills; and, by the look of the mid-century design, you would never know it. It was recently featured on the cover of the Union-Tribune’s Home & Garden section (https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/lifestyle/home-and-garden/story/2019-11-04/homeowners-saved-thousands-with-repurposed-items-for-kitchen-remodel).

You can see all the project photos—including a picture of the house from which the cabinets were removed—here: https://www.refindkitchens.com/pages/horizon-hills-midcentury

The cherry kitchen cabinets, oven and microwave came from a house in Cardiff. The vellum suspension lights came from Bird Rock. The DCS range lived in Carlsbad. The bar faucet is from Coronado. The pendant lights are 100% recycled glass from Bicycle Glass Co. in St. Paul, Minn. And in the bathroom, the vanity is a repurposed 1960’s sideboard from Bay Park.

What are a some events or milestones you are looking forward to?
Our existing warehouse feels more like a well-apportioned garage. We are preparing to expand into an 8,000 sq. ft. facility where we can process and display our inventory in a more streamlined fashion. We are also creating an umbrella organization called the Architectural Reuse Council to serve as the central coordinating hub for the diversion, reuse, repurposing and recycling of construction waste in Southern California.

Our goal is to build hundreds of houses in San Diego county out of entirely reused and recycled materials. Like always, we intend the structures to be as beautiful, or more, than other examples of high design.

Pricing:

  • Our inventory is always 30-90% off retail
  • A typical complete kitchen remodel with us will cost between $25,000-$40,000
  • Our cabinet buying process is explained here (refindkitchens.com/pages/cabinet-layout-process)

Contact Info:

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