Woodworking in Ottawa: How One Man Stumbled Upon A Niche Market

Vincent and Robert Millaire, Ibuildfurniture

If you cannot find the style of furniture you are looking for, why not build it yourself? That is how Vincent Millaire, founder of Ibuildfurniture, stumbled upon a niche market in Ottawa. After months of searching for a coffee table, Vincent faced the fact that what he wanted did not exist – at least not in the mainstream chain furniture stores of Ottawa. What he was looking for was something rustic, made of real wood instead of particle board. Vincent wanted the piece to be unique.

Eventually, Vincent found old wood shipping pallets and sanded them down. Once sanded, he painted them green and then, after changing his mind, brown. It was because of this simple painting happenstance that he discovered a unique colour that gave the wood a vintage finish. Vincent coupled the shipping pallets with a reclaimed chrome base and created his first piece of signature vintage-meets-modern furniture. The results were admired by friends and family over intimate dinner parties, so he decided to build more such coffee tables.

BarndoortableMillaire scoured department store closing sales in Ottawa and Montreal for old wood or chrome bases that he could later deconstruct. One day he got his hands on a table he planned to use as a desk, after managing to fend off other buyers: “I literally had to hold on to the table with (a firm grip) to stop others from taking it.” After all that hard work, he realized the table was too big for his space, so he sold it online five days later for $650 – he had paid $150 for it! That was the moment he realized he was not the only one desperate for quality furniture in Ottawa – there was a market that he could exploit!

As Vincent’s need for workspace grew, he approached his father, Robert Millaire. After agreeing to lend his son his heated garage to complete one project, father and son realized they worked better as a team. Robert, a retired gym teacher and self-made handyman, had a stock of tools and the know-how to significantly contribute to the growing business.

Condo-size2Nowadays, Vincent finds the wood and develops the vision, while father and son build and finish the pieces together to create tables of all kinds: dining room tables, coffee tables, end tables, and even picture frames. As linear as this process appears to outsiders, Vincent explains that “working with warped 100-year old wood always requires solutions.” Because of this, all of their attention is focused on one piece at a time, making both men important local artisans amidst an overwhelming market of cheaply-made furniture built to sell but not to last.

Like most artists, the Millaires have a particular style and remain authentic to their vision by respecting their mantra: “We build. You buy.” “I refuse to build something that I would not buy for myself,” Vincent emphasizes. And yes, they will refuse work on this basis. But not to worry, each piece they produce is guaranteed to become the focal point of any room. Like discussing fine art, your guests will want to talk about nothing else but the reclaimed vintage furniture in their midst.

All photos: Ibuildfurniture.com