Fishing for TreasureYou may not have a boat, but you can have part of one

To most of us a boat is for one of perhaps three things: drunken weekends on a junk tooling around Hong Kong harbour, transiting back and forth between Kowloon and the island or perhaps a escape vehicle should we find ourselves on the Titanic and in close proximity to an iceberg. Okay, there are other uses, but if you don’t make your living on the high seas, a boat is just a vessel to get you from A to B in a pinch. And ideally, it’s a big steel one.

Back in June, Hong Kong’s premier ecofurniture supplier, TREE, announced a limited edition line of tables, shelves and consoles made from an old Dragon Boat that was targeted for termination. After receiving a head’s up from the Lantau Boat Club, TREE got the boat moved, fumigated, broken down and crafted into home furnishings fit for any home in any city. Unique and appropriately pricey (items began at almost $15,000), the pieces proved there was indeed a market for recycling Hong Kong’s too easily forgotten history. The Dragon Boat line is sold out.

With onboard living an option for Hong Kong and junks by the dozens dotting the water around the city, the question that inevitably comes up is where do the city’s old boats go to die? Okay. Maybe it comes up sometimes, and that’s hard to answer here in the SAR (first guess? Landfill), but some boats in Indonesia wind up at TREE’s workshop. The Dragon Boat line is certainly not the first or only time the manufacturer has used boats as the raw material for its sustainable home furnishings.

The Ferum collection is perhaps sustainability at its artiest. TREE’s tables, beds, chair and other large items are unique in their own ways, but the Ferum accents are another beast altogether. Created from abandoned fishing boats, they were selected specifically for their colourfulness and the resulting individuality for the new items. The accessories — everything from trays to kids’ beds, from worktables to storage cabinets — are hand crafted from the boats’ carefully preserved panels, and reinforced with black iron. The varying colours and design make for varying pieces; no two are alike.

But TREE isn’t alone in its quest to save abandoned or non-seaworthy vessels from the proverbial wrecking ball. Based in the United Kingdom, the Old Boat Furniture Company creates custom-designed furniture from fishing boats, once again, from Southeast Asia. And once again, OBFC sources its materials from the same area specifically because of the colourful nature of the boats found in the region.

Teak cabinets, tables, chairs, sofas and chests take about 10 weeks to create and unfortunately ship only within the UK. But if you happen to be heading that way, items can be picked up starting at just around £120 (HK$1,400). You may be on your own in getting it here, but once you did you’d have a one-of-a-kind-piece.

That may have to do until more home interiors suppliers decide to troll the coastlines and defunct fishing villages for raw parts. But custom furniture has been made from poorer material, just as bland items have been made from the finest old growth forest around. And if you can get a dining suite from a fishing boat, can you imagine what might come from a decommissioned Star Ferry?