Concrete floors, cool and damp from rain, tempered the wet heat that filled Back Forty during its grand opening on Saturday. Andrew Watson and Chris Kelly’s newest joint endeavor is a retail space located under the same roof that houses Built, a workshop for commissioned furniture and décor, and Workspace, a 300-square-foot art gallery.
Back Forty is filled with Watson’s handmade woodwork, Kelly’s refurbished findings and the earthy smell of sawdust. The space’s contents are distinctively varied, yet cohesive.
One wall is lined with tall wooden slabs, including 80-year-old teak and 20-year-old cocobolo from South America. There are several rows of reworked old chairs, hand-picked by Kelly at flea markets, estate sales and garage sales. Also on display are Kelly’s original screen prints, a mid-20th-century globe, a golden barnacle centerpiece and a taxidermy alligator head. Every piece is interesting alone, but, together, they complement and enhance each other. “It all tells the same story,” Kelly said. “It’s American-made. It’s history.”
Kelly is well versed in American design, which is reflected in the items that fill Back Forty. His face lights up while explaining how a 1952 white and teal Harry Bertoia Diamond Chair came into his possession. Kelly spotted it, rusted and weathered, on a porch in Punta Gorda, Fla. He knocked on the door, bought the chair for $100 from a Mexican family and had it sandblasted and powder coated in Tampa.
Watson has equally interesting tales about sourcing his wood, some of which came from a 100-year-old barn in Florida. While everything sold at Built is commissioned, Back Forty gives Watson a creative outlet to build and sell furniture that is “approachable and affordable.”
Kelly and Watson, who met surfing and skating, have a symbiotic relationship that breeds beautiful furniture, art and décor.
Back Forty will be open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. That is, Kelly said, “Unless there’s surf.”