The Golden Gate Bridge has stood as an American icon since it first opened in the spring of 1937. The 4,200-foot red steel structure represented all that was majestic about the western United States and our ability to tame it. After its construction it was the largest suspension bridge in the world, and while it no longer holds that distinction, the beauty of the bridge and the epic views of the San Francisco Bay that it affords has drawn travelers from all around the world. As with every structure of this size, the Golden Gate Bridge has had its share of renovation and construction projects. Only three times over the history of the bridge has any truly significant amount of material been taken away. In 1993, the western-facing pedestrian handrail had to be removed, as it had deteriorated significantly due to the salty air blowing in from the ocean. Steel removed from bridges is generally melted down and reused in other building projects. But after lifelong local Richard Bulan saw a news story about the reconstruction efforts he tracked down the responsible party and secured his own piece of history, a 1,000 pound piece of that now disposable steel. His goal? To upcycle that Golden Gate steel into furniture.
After the twelve-foot section of the Golden Gate Bridge was sent to Bulan’s home, he devised plans to turn it into a headboard. But after a solid month of work, he ended up creating four unique headboards. Several associates rang him up inquiring about how they could purchase theirs, and Bulan realized he had stumbled across a business. He created the Golden Gate Bridge Furniture Company in Pacifica, California, which today crafts one-of-a-kind pieces out of that same chunk of the Golden Gate Bridge. And each one embodies both the history of San Francisco’s most stunning icon and the environmentally sustainable approach of upcycling.
The original headboard Bulan created still resides in his bedroom. Visitors could see the original rivets still in place, amazingly functional some eighty years after they were punched through the steel. But the wind and salt damage that made the handrails expendable on the bridge now made each piece completely unique. In furniture form, the imperfections were endearing, a visual marker of the power of nature and the passage of time.
Each headboard Bulan created weighs in at over one hundred pounds, and could be mounted to the wall and bolted on to any traditional bedframe. The Golden Gate Bridge Furniture Company made many other pieces as well, but each one is an extremely limited release, brought to market in trickles. All told there are 100 headboards for king or queen-sized beds, and 24 for full-sized beds. Bulan also created a series of slim coffee tables, glass-topped breakfast tables, cocktail tables, side lamp tables and a striking office desk among several other designs. Each table type was limited to batches of around 100, making the pieces an incredibly exclusive purchase. Bulan also created each one by hand, without assistance from overheadcranetec.com or any other heavy lifting service. Locals are welcome to explore each design in the company’s Pacifica showroom, but interested parties should act fast. The entire premise of upcycling means that the construction is limited by the availability of the raw materials. And when Bulan’s steel pieces of the Golden Gate Bridge run out there probably won’t be any more for quite some time.