Thomas Porter is quite literally building an empire. The Phoenix woodworker launched his material supply company, Porter Barn Wood, 12 years ago. Since then, he has done custom millwork for dozens of renowned restaurants around the Valley.
“Restaurants and hospitality give me the ability to do things in spaces that you don’t usually get to see,” he says. Over the years, he’s created reclaimed wood pieces for Neighborly Public House, Pizzeria Bianco, Christopher’s at the Wrigley Mansion, Toca Madera and more.
Over the summer, he transformed a former storage space across from his Downtown Phoenix workshop into a “showroom of [his] favorite creative outlets,” an elevated café of his own called The
He describes the dimly lit space as a “speakeasy for the morning,” offering from-scratch fare like Danish open-face sandwiches, lavash pizzas and salads using fresh produce from local growers. Specialty coffee drinks such as a pistachio mocha and turmeric and cinnamon latte resemble cocktails.
“I wanted to take some of those passions that I had for really great coffee, really great food, woodworking and building restaurants and put them all into a tight package,” he says. “I wanted to create a space that people would fall in love with.”
The Coffee Builders
901 S. Seventh St., Phoenix
BY THE NUMBERS
(1) Tessellated Ceiling
Porter and his team spent three and a half weeks crafting this custom ceiling featuring undulating walnut polygons.
(2) Walnut & Brass Parametric Panel
Many of Porter’s projects exist at the intersection of art and architecture, exemplified in this hand-carved beam beneath the coffee bar. “The whole space needed to be art to me,” he says.
(3) “Live” Wall
The original vision for this verdant accent wall was to adorn it with real plants. Given the space’s low light, Porter opted to furnish it with faux flora to keep it perennially green.
(4) Glass Window Wall
Using leftover glass, paint and wood from previous projects, Porter created this piece inspired by the grand stained-glass windows found in old churches.
(5) Water Vapor Fire Feature
This custom-made fire feature uses water vapor and light to mimic the flow and feel of real flames. “It adds that cozy, late-night vibe without having to worry about fire code,” Porter says.