A few steps away his Mountainhome front door, Julius Schratt’s man-cave is a two-car garage sided in shingles he lovingly harvested from a decades-ago destroyed inn near Lake Naomi. But there is no room for cars in Julius’ domain. Instead, he fills it with love.
The garage is where Julius handcrafts much coveted fine furniture from native and exotic wood. It’s where his imagination turns found “treasures” from junkyards, flea markets, and yard sales into artful wine racks, birdfeeders, and wind chimes. And it’s where he spends endless days with his grandchildren, teaching them to craft a scooter out of a discarded Shop-Vac and build model barns from scraps of pine. Julius has found a way to combine—under one garage roof—love of family and fine wood along with his passion for repurposing the flotsam and jetsam of life.
Julius uncovers a spectacular wine and spirits bar. “This was the wooden inner drum of a washing machine from about 1910,” he chuckles. “Now it holds 30 bottles, with a revolving glass top for wine glasses.” For almost 30 years, the cypress drum and its original bronze hardware and hickory base waited for Julius’ restoration. Eventually, the vision or a wine rack emerged.
Julius’ mantra seems to be “Eventually, I’ll figure out what to do with that.” His garage is bursting with lots of “that” and “this.” Old light globe covers become bird feeders. A solid bronze and copper antiquated dough hook is reincarnated as a bell. A wooden tripod and patined copper pipes evolve into a windchime. The floor-to-ceiling shelves of foraged wheels, rollers, bronze t-hinges, latches, pipes, bells, and even tiny wine-barrel faucets will “eventually” find new life in the imagination of Julius Schratt. What will he do with a copper gear cover from a farm tractor? Or the neatly stacked staves and hoops from an old Stegmaier beer barrel? “Eventually, I’ll figure it out,” he repeats.
Meanwhile, fine furniture lovers have discovered Julius’ talent for creating custom-made pieces. A couple in Lake Naomi commissioned a three-section, nine feet wide cherry armoir. “They don’t want any frame to show,” explains Julius. Another family had him transform an old farm table into a computer/sofa table. “I changed every dimension of that table and put in drawers, and not one inch of wood was left over,” says Julius.
Among Julius’ greatest loves is the love of wood. Slabs and sticks of ipe, rock maple, purpleheart, cocobolo, red oak, and Mexican rosewood categorically inhabit his space. This craftsman shuns polyurethane. “I rub and rub the furniture with only butchers wax and Liquid Gold oil,” he insists. “Feel this.” He traces his finger along the top of an African padauk wood table. “Like a baby’s behind.” Julius pulls out a piece of sapele wood, with its hues of amber, chestnut, and red. “Looks like flames are running through it,” he marvels. The exotic and the local wood take forms of everything from occasional tables, desks, hinged foyer benches, and coffee tables to even umbrella and pet dish stands. Pieces of wormy chestnut, zebrawood, and wenge wood will eventually become heirloom pieces of furniture. What will they be? “Eventually, I’ll figure it out,” says Julius.
Find Julius Schratt’s hand-crafted furniture at the Skytop Holiday Arts Festival over Thanksgiving weekend.
By Karen Tetor
Photos by Jessica DeLorenzo