Beauty + Design
By Laura Martier
At first glance the scene at Seagate North Shopping Center looked like a meticulously directed photo shoot depicting a Fourth of July celebration of young creatives.
A vintage camper repurposed as a mobile bar was the initial focal point. An American flag served as the awning. Surrounding it was an eclectic mix of peers who mostly live and work on the Outer Banks, among them entrepreneurs, business owners, artists, surf instructors, yoga teachers and chefs. They arrived on bikes, skateboards and on foot with their dogs, who frolicked together while their owners enjoyed each other’s company. A Weber grill was smoking and in full force. Next to it was a makeshift banquet table on aluminum saw horses that held platters of chicken hot off the grill and white sweet corn with queso fresco. The craft cocktails flowed freely while a curated playlist of music brought it all together. It was festive and fun, the kind of scene that one immediately feels drawn to. But this was not a photo shoot; it was an ALTWOOD event.
ALTWOOD is a labor of love between partners Lindsay Dilworth and Andrew Carnill. The name ALTWOOD incorporates first initials A and L and a T for Trinny, their canine companion who lived out her last days shortly after they moved to the Outer Banks last July. Wood is the couple’s medium of choice.
The festivities, a holiday weekend pop-up, were specifically designed to draw people into the duo’s newly opened space. The gathering was also designed to draw people into a community of like-minded peers who live and create things here and provide a look inside a lifestyle conceived and created by Dilworth and Carnill with as much detail as passion.
It was a shared passion for the Outer Banks beaches that brought the couple to settle here after living in Brooklyn, N.Y. for six years. As a child, Dilworth spent most of her summers at her grandparents’ beach cottage and working her first job at Islands in the Waterfront Shoppes in Duck. She worked there in the summers throughout high school and college, which is where she met Carnill. After graduating they both lived in Kitty Hawk for seven months before moving to New York. Those seven months sealed their future.
“It kind of hooks you,” Dilworth recalls. “I see that happening with people. New York forces you to struggle.”
The struggle of living in a big city also brought forth big questions. Questions like: Why do we live here? What are we doing? When are we going back to the beach? Every year Dilworth and Carnill would stand at the mailbox before sending another annual lease and ask each other if they were sure about committing to yet another year.
Then, one morning they talked about their dream of life back at the beach over coffee, and they decided to do it. After living in an apartment for six years, Dilworth says, “We wanted a porch.”
Something as simple as a porch and the pleasures derived from sitting in a perfect chair, sipping a cool drink in a beautiful glass and whiling away the hours, is one of a myriad of scenarios that make up the inspiration behind ALTWOOD. The two believe strongly that what you bring into your home or workplace can and should bring joy and make a big difference in how you live and use that space. “We can help create a space that really works and is satisfying to be in,” says Dilworth. “Our whole goal wasn’t to come here and open a store at all. It was to come here and find a way into the rental property and real estate market and enhance the visitor and resident experience.”
Carnill agrees. “Opening a store was a way to introduce our aesthetic to the community… a first step in getting the message out.”
The message is simple. Furniture design that meets a particular lifestyle is accessible to everyone, says Carnill, whose custom furniture is handcrafted and one-of-a-kind. He adds that the advantage of custom work is that it cannot begin without a conversation.
“Let’s talk about what you need in your space. See what is logical. Talk about a budget and come up with something together,” he says. “The vision of ALTWOOD is to give people the opportunity to experience this process alongside us from beginning to end, whether it is all of the necessary components of a home improvement project or a uniquely designed piece of heirloom furniture that will last forever. We can do that.”
These days it’s hard to imagine something lasting forever with our fast-paced modern society and disposable culture, but when speaking of his furniture designs Carnill talks about a quality that can be hard to find — transparency. A self-taught carpenter with a master’s degree in graphic design, Carnill draws and designs pieces of furniture sometimes based on images floating around in his head, enjoying the challenge and knowledge he gains every time he goes through the process. From his brain to paper, turning raw material into three dimensional form, Carnill says, “This is a journey every time, and I like to show that journey in my work because I’m not hiding anything.”
Carnill’s process is evident. The furniture is streamlined and modern and uses domestic wood. Crafted in a small workshop beneath the couple’s home, Carnill’s stunningly simple pieces are made without the benefit of expensive, intricate machinery—no assistance from modern digitized tools. Instead, Carnill makes do with the tools he has in his shop, many passed down from Dilworth’s father and maternal grandfather.
When speaking of ALTWOOD’s first line of furniture Carnill says, “I think it speaks for itself. It’s a timeless, clean, very modern line of tables, coffee tables, stools and benches that really reflects where I am right now as a designer and what I can do with the tools I have at my shop.”
The multi-functional inaugural line of furniture is interspersed among the carefully curated goods hand-sourced by Dilworth at ALTWOOD. The storefront serves as a living, breathing model of the team’s aesthetic. Housed in Seagate North, one of the oldest strip malls in Kill Devil Hills, ALTWOOD is an example of what kind of metamorphosis is possible with a shared vision, determination, hard work and skill. “We have a conversation about meeting your need for something extremely personal and specific,” says Carnill. “Showing people that it is attainable may be our biggest challenge.” Or perhaps it is a calling.
For Dilworth and Carnill, challenge is a part of the creative process, and while they are busy in the store and workshop or out in the community sharing their vision, the two are constantly dreaming about expanding their message of beauty and design. “We hope that ALTWOOD will become an asset for the Outer Banks and the surrounding communities,” says Carnill. “We want it to serve as a voice that expresses our desire to spread the word of good design. You can see what we do, you see what we build, and we can start the conversation.”