The value of a pallet
Paul Gutter shows us what he’s been doing with all our leftover wood
by Tilly Dillehay Editor
We at the Times had often wondered exactly what Paul Gutter was doing with all those pallets. He comes every week, sometimes more than once a week, to pick up some of the used wood pallets that our insert deliveries come in. One day, we finally asked him.
So he whipped out his phone and showed us some pictures.
Gutter, a retired transmissions mechanic, has been building some beautiful things with those pallets. He invited the Times to come over and look around, and we were quick to take him up on the offer.
Gutter and his wife Kimberly live over on Pryor Lane, a few miles off of Scottsville Road. They are originally from Montana, but moved to Tennessee to be closer to family. “Close enough, but also far enough away, if you know what I mean,” Paul winks.
They purchased a property on Pryor Lane without having seen it, and apparently when they showed up, it was considerably rougher than what they’d expected. Formerly an equipment barn, the square, open building with a metal exterior had been stripped down to the bare bones.
The weeds in the yard, Kimberly says, were taller than Paul. There were no windows, and just two industrial sized doors. The concrete floors have a water heating system underneath, but there was no heat and no septic tank.
The Gutters had purchased the place to live in, so they set to work making it livable. Now the open space has been compartmentalized into sort of open-air rooms, with the kitchen separated from the bedroom by shelving, the bedroom separated from the bathroom by a large bed frame.
They’ve lived there for almost exactly one year. They have a garden and are continuing to can and dehydrate produce, and Kimberly has a job at a nursing home in Westmoreland. But the renovation is also underway, and this is where the pallets come in.
Over time, Paul is slowly building furniture and covering the walls… with pallet wood.
What’s more, it looks fantastic. Even the open-air floorplan has sort of an exciting, rustic-loft feel to it, although, Kimberly says, “I can’t wait till we get the walls up—because of the dust!”
‘The dust’ would be sawdust, and a thin layer of it seems to settle on everything. That’s because half of the enclosure is being used as Paul’s workshop, and it begins just a few yards away from the kitchen.
Paul has already created a nice outdoor seating area out of the pallets, complete with a pallet-wood stained table and some pallet-wood window boxes. Pallet wood also forms the two or three fences surrounding their backyard vegetable gardens and chicken coop. The kitchen cabinets, counters, and sink area are all made of pallet wood, and a freestanding, rolling island in the kitchen is made to match. The bathroom has a pallet-wood vanity and mirror, and a pallet-wood privy.
Paul has also sold several pieces, and says he would love to start making and selling more. He gets the pallets from the Times, but also from our local Tractor Supply and Tri-County Electric.
When asked about how they managed, when moving into a barn with nothing more than four walls and a concrete floor, Kimberly replied, “This is nothing. We’ve lived up in the mountains without running water or electricity… I want to go back.” Paul says that they used to live entirely off the grid, using solar power and growing or raising almost all their food.
Too bad they’ve gone soft.
What they missed most about Montana may surprise you, considering that they’re now in Tennessee and we’re supposed to have pretty good ones: “The mountains,” said Kimberly.
They also said that they miss the way of life in Montana. “People are just so different,” said Paul. “You can go in the grocery store and it’s 20 below, and leave the truck unlocked and running for an hour and nobody will bother it… when we sold our house, the realtor said ‘Where’s the keys?’ and we said ‘Uh, I don’t know.’ We never used them. We never locked our doors.”
Despite the occasional homesickness, they seem to be settling down and making a home. They promised to give us another tour when the walls are up and the house is finished.
In the meantime, Paul says he’d be happy to talk to anyone who is interested in some upcycled pallet furniture. His cell number is 615-788-4114.
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