The stunning expansive dining tables and bars crafted from Arizona hardwood that elicit jaw-dropping responses have become a signature trait of Ironwood Mills' custom furniture.
However, the creativity, skill, and occasional problem-solving required to make dreamy culinary furnishings come to tangible reality is what lies beneath the mesquite, eucalyptus, or one of the many hardwood species cultivated by Ironwood Mills.
This, paired with a knack for finding nature's treasures in unlikely places, is where Ironwood distinguishes itself from the sea of creators, under the watch of founder and veteran craftsman Scott Mills.
“He’s magical that way,” says Ironwoods co-owner Leah Bosworth, Mills' partner in business and, for the last 16 years, in love and life.
Mills' magic is experienced by guests at some of the state's most popular restaurants. Buck & Rider’s newest location in Gilbert features a 16-foot teak table crafted to the owners’ specifications, and Elote in Sedona (Ironwood's first restaurant client) flaunts a community table with medallion and copper inlay in eucalyptus. The Vig at McDowell Mountain is also among the dozens of restaurants that showcase Ironwood’s works.
Homeowners with an eye for art seek out Ironwood to transform their kitchens, bars, and dining rooms into personalized galleries.
“The people who come to us and work with us are pretty open. They want something unique and to be part of the creative process. And they give us a lot of freedom,” Bosworth says.
One client wanted an 8-foot by 8-foot dining table with a large leaf in the center so he could step into the open space and serve his family in a 360-degree fashion. Mills diligently fulfilled his request.
Currently, Mills is working on a dining table for a couple who happened to own a flower shop in the building that houses Ironwood Mills and Bosworth’s yoga studio 30 years ago. Mills is building it with one leaf and two drop-down pieces, so it can expand to 12 feet long when they have their big family in town, and then retract to a 5-foot by 5-foot square when it’s just the two of them.
One client’s home was featured in Dwell magazine. She was doing a remodel and Mills took the trees from her property, processed them, and used the urban lumber to make her new dining room table and stair treads.
Often, creativity is what makes a client’s dream come to life. This involves piecing together wood pieces with other materials to elegantly create the large pieces they crave. Distinctive looks are made by inverting the live edge on a slab, or by filling cracks with epoxy for dramatic effect.
“It's why our pieces end up being so unique. We use what we have, and sometimes we are forced to get creative,” Bosworth says. “It’s a collaboration between a client’s vision, our craftsmen, and the material.”
The union of Bosworth and Mills has proven to also be quite the solid collaboration. The pair met while she was bartending at an Arcadia-area restaurant and a friend brought in Mills, who had just moved to the city to finish building a 7000-square-foot house on Camelback and Arcadia.
After their first date—a ride on Mills’ BMW motorcycle through the desert—they were inseparable.
“It was one of those perfect summer nights in Phoenix. I remember feeling really at home with him,” Bosworth recalls. “I would say it was love at first sight.”
A longtime yoga instructor, Bosworth opened her Ironwood Yoga Studios in a cool warehouse with 18-foot ceilings and mountain views. There happened to be a shop in the back of the studio space. Using that shop as a home base, Mills, a lifelong construction pro, helped Bosworth build it out with fun and cool materials.
One thing led to another, and Ironwood Mills was born.
“He’s a treasure hunter by nature … He found logs headed for the landfill, bought a sawmill, started building furniture, and it took off from there,” Bosworth says.
Bosworth took on admin and website duties for Ironwood Mills. When the pandemic forced her yoga classes online, Bosworth slowly focused more attention on Mills. Today, the yoga studio is her side gig, and she is a full-time partner in the woodworking business.
“We built this really beautiful community,” Bosworth says. “Scott and I create well together. Whether it’s cooking dinner or building a business, there is something about us that balances the other out, and we end up creating something really special.”
The material Mills works with is urban lumber, raw, unfinished natural wood grown in Arizona. This is much different than what's commonly termed as “reclaimed wood,” which has already been processed and typically obtained from another structure, like a barn door or cabin wall.
All the wood Mills uses is rescued and diverted from the landfill–trees that have succumbed to disease, invasive species, or development. After he collects and mills the logs, they kiln dry the slabs and display them in the shop. Mills’ focus is on 10-15 different types of wood, most of which are new to clients.
“People tend to be drawn to what they know. They aren’t aware of the species we have here in the Valley,” Bosworth says. “Sometimes people think they want walnut because it's what is familiar. We can tweak certain species to look like walnut, but what is more exciting is when people start to discover the beauty of the hardwood we have right here. For example, acacia has rich color and grain patterns, eucalyptus offers a lot drama, and olive is to die for.
“I love what we do. We love the creativity, craftsmanship, and giving these trees a second life,” Bosworth says. “And to really build a community … we love all of that.”