It takes a special eye to see the potential in a piece of wood, but if you spend a little time with Joey Zinni, you may just develop an appreciation for logs left lying on the forest floor, or you may start envisioning the piece of furniture begging to be fashioned out of the tree you had taken out of your own yard.
What others leave for burn piles and scrap, Zinni turns into art. Custom pieces of furniture, hardwood floors, cabinets, molding and mill work from salvaged logs are the hallmarks of what he does, but he’s not afraid to tackle even bigger projects – like building an entire house.
Zinni and his business partner and general contractor, Brian Herrigstad, do high end custom wood work. Their most recent venture is a 3000 square foot house nestled on a hillside in Tenino. It sits on a piece of land near a number of other houses they built from the ground up, including their own homes.
As a result of studying with acclaimed builder, Rob Roy, Zinni adopted a philosophy of using only wood that is indigenous to the area in which he is building. When he and his wife moved to Washington twenty years ago, they purchased a piece of property and decided to construct a house using cordwood masonry. “I was looking around and said, ‘Look at all this gold lying on the ground! Look at all this wood and nobody’s doing nothing with it! They don’t know what they have. It’s right in their back yard. It’s everywhere, and I’m gonna take advantage of this.’” He built his unique home using timber from his property and other salvaged wood.
Salvage logging is no longer permitted for bulk wood, but Zinni uses the practice for timber that has been felled and left by logging companies or has fallen on its own. Friends in the timber industry will occasionally call and say “Hey, they’re gonna fire wood these logs,” so he and a crew will go and haul it out from a mill or the forest. Occasionally he’ll happen upon a “buckskin log,” a giant tree that has either fallen or been left by loggers who have deemed it unusable.
Zinni is proud of the fact that there is very little waste in what he does. He is also proud of the fact that what he creates is beautiful to look at. In the house he and Herrigstad recently completed, the floors and cabinets in the kitchen are made from Oregon ash, an indigenous hardwood. “Normally people burn Oregon ash in their fireplaces,” explains Zinni. “We salvaged it all from firewood piles.”
When he talks about the flooring, the pride is evident. “This is done old school. It’s all tongue and groove. Everything is put in from scratch.” The floors, beams, and ceilings are all milled by Zinni and Herrigstad then hand finished with a hard wax oil so that the true grain and color is visible. All the home’s cabinets are custom made from salvaged wood as well.
Throughout the house are pieces of Zinni’s furniture including solid maple side tables in the bedroom, a hand built bed frame, and a solid slab coffee table, fashioned from a buckskin log. In conversation, he allows that he can build a table to any specifications and will custom design one to fit into any room.
For a long time, Zinni thought he would never find another builder with the same passion for wood he has, then five years ago he discovered a kindred spirit in Herrigstad. Ironically, they were living just down the road from one another. “He (Brian) was building a timber house down the street – a timber addition actually,” says Zinni. He observed Herrigstad’s work and was impressed. “I’m looking at this guy and I (thought) ‘He cares.’ I was thinking there ain’t nobody out there like me.” It has been a happy partnership. “We live what we believe in. We live what we promote,” explains Zinni.
Another beneficiary of Zinni’s passion for building has been Marty Wicklund. Wicklund, who works in the forestry industry, purchased a piece of land from Zinni then hired him to build a house on it. The custom home was fashioned from salvaged western red cedar. It, too, is filled with hand crafted furniture and weathered wood.
“We’re doing it out of passion,” says Zinni. He knows not everyone will appreciate what they’re trying to do with their building practices, but he also knows that there will be people who get it. “It’s very labor intensive, but we live it and breathe it.”
Joey Zinni and Brian Herrigstad are available for contract work and Zinni is available to create custom furniture. You can contact them at 360-790-2671.
One of the homes featured in this article is for sale and can be seen by appointment.