Habitat for Humanity Contest Winner Drinks to Invention

Recycling artist Wayne Ruth in his "biergarten."

Recycling artist Wayne Ruth in his “biergarten.”

“Some days the project is done,” says recycling artist Wayne Ruth. “But then other days… maybe not.” A long-time volunteer at the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Ruth used his insider’s advantage to scavenge materials that resulted in a quirky-but-polished German “biergarten” (beer garden) at his home in rural Clyde. “We get a lot of nice things donated,” notes Ruth, “and a lot of interesting things, and a lot of weird things.”

The building-materials section of the vast local ReStore — an industry-lauded model for ReStores nationwide — is a gallery of potential for design dreams. A door covered in peeling paint becomes the threshold of a backyard chicken coop; a vintage window might be the start of a stellar greenhouse.

The contest, which saw a record number of entrants this year, invites local residents to transform reused and recycled materials into design elements, either enhancing existing structures or building new ones. The categories ranged from furniture to homesteading, with awards for people’s choice, best in show, and most unique.

Ruth won the “Best Live and/or Work Space” category. The inspiration for his biergarten came partly from his childhood in Germany. He had a vision for an outdoor space where he could sip his favorite imported brews.

The project started with a hot tub from the ReStore that he installed outside. Over the past five years, he has built structures around the hot tub, enclosed the walkways, and is now working on a pizza pit for parties. The biergarten has European style with a bit of Asheville flair.

“I’m a strong believer in the evolution of ideas,” Ruth says. He enjoys starting with raw materials and watching them evolve as he adds bits and pieces he finds at the ReStore.

“If you really want to find out who you are,” he notes, “do it yourself.”

First, he built a deck and roof for the hot tub. “I overbuilt it,” he says, “but that’s me.” Below it is the covered “bierstube” or tavern. “It’s modeled after an older place you might find in Germany,” says Ruth, “and has some stained glass I brought back from my army tour there 40 years ago. Many things have been gathered through the years, waiting to be called up. I guess I started on the biergarten in 2010 after my last trip to Europe. I’ve tweaked things along the way.”

He likes to know what customers build with their own found treasures, and finds himself hoping that they’ll go to good use in their new homes. Whether the projects are award winning or not, the endeavor as a whole has a positive impact on the community, says Ruth.

As far as his own sprawling artisanal vision — that, he says, is something “I can’t always explain.”


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