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Meet Your Curbed Young Guns Finalists: the Outsiders

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After weeks spent accepting nominations and sifting through hundreds of talented designers, builders, and architects, Curbed is ready to announce the finalists of Young Guns 2014. All week long we'll be rolling out the nominees. Today: the Outsiders.

We now introduce a group of Young Guns 2014 finalists we consider outlanders in the field, those who are either taking their degrees to do something off-the-walls creative or perhaps those who have taken the road less traveled to design success. There's a reclaimed materials squirrel, a biophiliac bringing joy to the masses, and a fearless furniture whisperer.

Matthew Holdren

Age: 34
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
What he does: Founder, Designer, and Fabricator at Matthew Holdren Design

How do you manage to keep a steady supply of the found building materials used in your projects?

"A lot of my aesthetic leans on the reclaimed materials that I find. I can't go to Home Depot to buy them, and there may be a day when their availability starts to slow down. So I collect. I'm a big hoarder! People are always asking if my materials are salvaged from Katrina. For some reason it rubs me the wrong way, and I never want to associate what I do with scavenging. Since the storm, there's been a lot of rebuilding. It's not that the houses are being torn down, but they're being renovated, and a lot of the old wood tends to come out of them. It has to do with structural things, and oftentimes contractors are required to save just the front of a building for historical reasons, but then they'll take down the whole rear of the house. For the most part it has nothing to do with the storm. In the middle of my day I can get a call from demo contractors and they'll tell me go out to this address because they've got a pile of wood in the backyard. I have even taken down parts of houses on my own. I've learned that anything is possible."

His work:

Molly Meyer

Age: 32
Location: Chicago, Illinois
What she does: Founder, CEO, and Living Infrastructure Specialist at Omni Ecosystems

What are some ways in which greener urban landscapes can benefit city dwellers?

"I specialize in green roofs and green walls. In the US it's a more recent phenomenon, but in 2050 there will be green roofs on every structure. We're going to have an urban environment that feels more natural, one that uses the concept of biophilia, which is essentially that humans are happier and healthier when they're surrounded by plants and vegetation. We're going to be living in much denser urban environments to sustain the growing population, but I think we may be happier because we'll actually feel closer to nature. On the environmental side, green roofs and green walls reduce stormwater runoff, clean the air, reduce urban heat island effect, and reduce noise. On the financial side there are also a lot of benefits involved, like energy savings. Cooling loads can be reduced, some studies have shown, by as much as 25%. Green roofs can extend the life of a roofing membrane, so instead of having to replace a roof every 20 years or so, you could see one lasting to 50 years. We also think there will be a financial incentive for green roofs used as farms. There's the possibility of retrofitting existing construction and putting green roofs in food deserts."

Her work:

Eny Lee Parker

Age: 25
Location: Savannah, Georgia
What she does: Founder, Interior and Furniture Designer at Eny Lee Parker, and Graduate Student at Savannah College of Art and Design

Why did you switch gears from an interior design career to a furniture design education?

"I used to work in residential interior design, and I wanted to know the backstory of each piece of furniture I picked. To be a designer, you should also know how to be a producer and back it up. A design is so much more successful when you know how to build it, you know the backstory, you know what the best little gadgets are for your design. It also helps in working with factories and crafters. For me, everything about furniture design is new, and it's such an amazing feeling. I haven't figured out what my medium is yet, but I'm enjoying just learning how to use all these materials. Personally, I believe that a design is never really perfect. It's more or less appropriate to an environment or a solution. After I graduate, I probably won't be doing so much of the crafting part, but I would love to be collaborating with other designers."

Her work:

Amy Swift

Age: 31
Location: Detroit, Michigan
What she does: Founder and Principal Designer at Building Hugger

As a developer and contractor, what inspired you to also become a certified historical window restoration expert?

"I got into windows initially because I was looking to save money on the property that I was redeveloping, the 2xHouse in southwest Detroit. There wasn't a skilled enough contractor in the city taking on larger scale jobs that are just sort of get-it-done kind of projects. You don't have $40,000 to sink into windows, but you might have seven to ten to make sure the ones you do have are airtight, don't have leaks, and have windowpanes in them. There's this scrappy approach to window repair that can and should be taken for these kinds of properties. Once the historic windows are gone, the character, and the overall integrity of the historic nature of that property, is also gone. So I took a trades training course in the spring because I needed to learn how to do it myself. I didn't actually anticipate building a business around windows, I just thought it was something I would be capable of for my development projects. Unsolicited, I started getting calls for window jobs. The window focus is critical because it feeds into the larger platform of what restoring a place and being a preservationist really means in Detroit. It takes a different approach than in New York or Chicago. You have to be open to different ideas of what should stay and what should go, what you should rally behind and find a solution for, and what's not worth the effort."

Her work:

· All Young Guns 2014 posts [Curbed National]