RALEIGH, N.C. — Two dilapidated barns had a date with a bulldozer to make way for a new subdivision.
But where some people might have seen the knots, twists and warps of the aging timber and sent it straight to the dumpster, Brian Chiarizia saw a challenge, a work of art and his next project.
“I think the reclaimed stuff just tends to have the best story or the most heart in it,” he said. “New work is nice, and you can showcase it and it’s shiny and pretty, but the reclaimed stuff just has a lot more character and a lot more meaning behind it.”
It also is a lot more work. But the 36-year-old Chiarizia knows a little about hard work.
Chiarizia single-handedly owns and operates a 7-year-old Raleigh-based independent contracting company called Rebuild, where he does a little bit of everything, including finish carpentry, built-in cabinetry design and fabrication, painting, reclaimed-wood accent walls and renovations.
This includes projects he has shared on social media, like a deep-blue built-in workspace for a boy’s room, a screened porch and a fireplace with whitewashed brick and a reclaimed timber mantel. He estimates that 25 to 30 percent of his clients come from Instagram, where he paints a picture of the life of some of his favorite pieces, including the transformation of the barn wood.
At the site, among an overgrown patch of trees, he dismantled the tobacco and livestock barns one piece at a time last summer and has since reworked them into tables and shelves at two downtown Cary, North Carolina, businesses. He also built a dining room table with the outline of North Carolina in the center for a local attorney.
“It’s such a cliche thing to say, but if you find something you love doing, it doesn’t feel like work,” Chiarizia said.
A personal touch
Chiarizia’s grandmother was one of his main influences when he began working with his hands. He remembers visiting her shop, which was in the basement of her home, and crafting birdhouses and workbenches as a child.
But it was growing up in his family’s commercial roofing company in Syracuse, New York, that instilled in him the value of hard work, even if the work itself wasn’t always appreciated the same way.
“You could spend months and millions of dollars on a roof that no one ever sees, especially for commercial buildings,” he said.
Now Chiarizia does work he knows people will enjoy — like the built-in cabinets in Apex resident Madolyn Harward’s garage and a reclaimed wall in her stairwell.
He even surprised Harward and her husband with a large pallet-style frame made with reclaimed wood for the couple to use as a backdrop for letters spelling out the name of their new baby. And when Harward didn’t know who to call to fix a leak in her garage last year, she called Chiarizia.
“You just don’t find people with that work quality, and he takes each job so seriously,” she said. “He’s one in a million.”
While most of his work is on residential projects, the commercial side of his business has taken off since he completed projects in downtown Cary. At Pharmacy Bottle and Beverage, he built shelves, tables, benches, chairs, wine holders, picture frames and more.
“He really does care about what he produces and where it goes,” said Tyler Watt, Pharmacy’s owner. “I’ll find him in my back porch area sanding something and restaining something he did a year ago because he walked by and thought it needed a little attention.”
Zach Faulisi, owner of Pizzeria Faulisi, met Chiarizia through Watt, and the two became fast friends.
Chiarizia built custom shelving and tiled the wood-burning oven before Faulisi’s new restaurant opened earlier this year. But then he moved on to hanging all the pictures and mirrors, building a cart for the firewood and completing other tasks to get the business open in time.
“He’s pretty much the nicest guy I’ve ever met in my life,” Faulisi said. “He will go out of his way to do whatever he can to help you.”
Whether it’s finishing a table or assembling a built-in, Chiarizia often can be found either working at a client’s house or in his own shop, which is in the basement of his Raleigh home. To him, the work is relaxing, and he often loses track of time until he hears little feet on the hardwood floors upstairs — meaning his two daughters, 5-year-old Emily and 3-year-old Samantha, are home.
The girls sometimes get involved in the woodworking and have helped with several projects, including the benches at Pharmacy Bottle and Beverage. Even when they aren’t helping, they are always close by — one of the benefits of working at home.
“I like that when I have late nights and long weekends and I’m working in the shop, I know they’re upstairs,” he said.