A Magazine Street fixture since 1991, Wilkerson Row (3137 Magazine St., 504-899-3311; www.shaunwilkerson.com) presents an eclectic collection of tables, hutches, chests and bed frames for those looking to add a touch of rustic character to their home decor. Owner Shaun Wilkerson builds the pieces in his Bywater studio, combining local woods with solid craftsmanship.
Wilkerson says he found his calling when he was 10 years old. "I was always getting into scrap lumber and tools around the house," he says. Wilkerson entered the business in 1988, crafting mantels at a shop on Carrollton Avenue. He became chief artisan at his namesake furniture retailer in 1991.
In 2000, Wilkerson was contacted by restaurant mogul Ralph Brennan. Brennan's newest venture at the time was a New Orleans-themed eatery named Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen, located in the Downtown Disney District in Anaheim, Calif. Wilkerson stepped in to help, implementing a fresh design and specialty construction within the two-story replica of a French Quarter building. The project presented the designer with a problem unique to the bistro's West Coast location — redesigning the bar within a four-month period to ensure it was earthquake-proof. Wilkerson secured the mahogany bar in three sections and used the back wall to generate support. The finished bar now can withstand both earthquakes and crowds of thirsty patrons.
His pieces at Wilkerson Row are utilitarian works of art. Many of Wilkerson's works are composed from reclaimed local wood, and the store offers a wide range of finishes and styles. Other pieces on display include a Creole-style bed and a wine rack console built from old cypress, featuring wrought-iron detailing with acorns and oak leaf motifs.
Wilkerson emphasizes the quality of his pieces rather than the quantity and celebrates New Orleans as an environment where small businesses are beloved facets of the city's character. "Mom-and-pop places just don't exist anymore in larger metropolitan areas," Wilkerson says. "I'm proud to be one of them. If you make a good product at a good price, the people of New Orleans will support it."