PDXoriginals breathes new life into old airport benches

Multnomah County
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland International Airport is arguably most famous for its now replaced iconic carpet. But one local company may get Portlanders to notice something else next time they take a trip.

The men behind PDXoriginals: Ryan Alexander Widell, Ben Vickers and Steve Mika. (Courtesy: PDXoriginals)

When the airport benches went up for auction, PDXoriginals thought of them as “integral pieces” of the city’s history. So, Ben Vickers, Ryan Alexander Widell and Steve Mika purchased over 400 of the benches that may have ended up as scrap otherwise.

While the idea may have overwhelmed some, the 3 men, who met while playing soccer in Portland, had experience in furniture.

PDXoriginals & New Avenues for Youth Portland Airport Bench Collaboration Auction

Vickers and Mika have been in business together for 8 years working mostly in e-commerce and mid-century modern furniture fields while Widell has background in Mediterranean furniture.

What the airport benches looked like after PDXoriginals purchased them. (Courtesy: PDXoriginals)

“We debated the endeavor and its many pitfalls, endlessly,” Mika told KOIN 6 News. “We included Ryan in the conversations and slowly developed a consensus that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we couldn’t pass up.”

Mika, Widell and Vickers all have their own memories when it comes to these airport benches — which inspired them even more to revamp the seats.

“Memories of waiting hours for a rescheduled flight after falling asleep and missing my original departure have helped push me to rejuvenate these chairs,” Mika said. “One of the first things that became apparent when we embarked on this project is the ability of these chairs to elicit such strong pride, and a dearth [sic] of memories. Everyone has a story.”

PDXoriginals breathed new life into the retired airport benches — creating functional and sustainable pieces of art. 

The company uses locally sourced leather and fabrics to revive the chairs. (Courtesy: PDXoriginals)

The company uses locally sourced, high-quality leather and interesting fabrics to revive the chairs while staying true to the original design, Mika said. The chairs have been thoroughly cleaned and all the chrome and aluminum accents have been polished to mirror shine. They also have options for updated tables and armrests — using exotic woods that accent the fabrics.

The airport benches were installed in 1983, but there’s little else known about them — like the original designer and build date.

Despite the benches being sat on for decades by thousands of travelers, PDXoriginals said the seats still have a strong structure.

The company uses locally sourced leather and fabrics to revive the chairs. (Courtesy: PDXoriginals)

“These chairs are so well built, they’ve stood the test of time and managed to remain relevant,” Mika said. He also added that the “new, foreign-made chairs” at PDX currently don’t have the same character and doubts anyone will want them 30 years from now.

The public’s response to these now modernized chairs has been overwhelming.

“This has been an exhausting and expensive endeavor, and to witness the enthusiastic response of the Portland community has been inspiring,” Mika said. 

Some may have seen the old benches as nothing more than scrap, but PDXoriginals’ idea created something new while still staying true to the chairs’ original structure.

“We live in an era of throwaway furniture sold in tiny boxes that rarely survives a move,” Mika said. “At PDXoriginals, we strive to breathe new life into forgotten relics.”

The company will host an open house at their Southeast Portland warehouse on Friday before displaying their benches at the Keller Audition for TEDxPortland on Saturday.

The PDXoriginals showroom in Southeast Portland. (Courtesy: PDXoriginals)

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