Jaime and Carol Hunter didn’t set out to make a product that is now sold internationally. They simply wanted to save time and money when creating their coastal-themed art.
“We’d go to High Point and other places where mansions were being taken apart to get salvage wood,” Carol says. “Some of that salvage wood was expensive and we knew we could not keep doing that, so we needed to figure this out.”
The figuring out process led to the invention of Saltwash, an additive made with sea salt that makes new wood look weathered. It’s manufactured in their workshop in Wilmington, and sold around the world.
“We were just trying to find the beach cottage look, but it wasn’t a ‘Let’s start a DIY paint company’ project,” Carol says.
Carol and Jaime, a Wilmington native, own Saltwater Salvage Designs. They make art with the beach cottage, weathered-wood look that is sold at Airlie Moon.
The couple experimented in their garage with ways to make new wood look weathered. They knew they had found the right recipe when they took one of their boards to the Wrightsville Beach Museum and laid it down by the time-worn porch steps. Their board matched the real thing, and they knew they had found success.
Initially, the product was just intended for their own artwork. But when other people began to ask about it, the idea to manufacture and market Saltwash was born.
“So many people at the furniture markets asked us where we got our old wood, which were all new boards treated with Saltwash by then,” Carol says. “So, we decided to package it and see what happens. We got the patent, the registered trademark, and set up a tiny table with the labels taped on the cans at the Atlanta show. We got many orders from that.”
The company was founded in 2014. The product is sold in seafoam-green cans that feature a shapely pin-up girl and the promise “You can use this product to create a vintage look.”
“The branding has helped catch people’s eye,” Carol says. “Stores like it on the shelf ’cause it’s a pretty little package. She is our ambassador.”
The product can do more than make new wood look weathered.
“It’s a paint additive,” Carol says. “You can add Saltwash into any type of paint and use it on any paintable surface to create a whole variety of effects, faux rust, faux cement, verdigris, or metal.”
The Hunters were guest hosts on the Home Shopping Network in February.
“We are just this little rinky-dink workshop in Wilmington,” Carol says. “I don’t think people know we’re here. But we have accounts all around the EU, Australia, Korea.”
When they started the company, Carol and Jaime got valuable help from the Small Business and Technology Development Center at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.
“We are fortunate that here in Wilmington the SBTDC group is a huge help,” Carol says. “And the N.C. organization helped with small trade development. It was a huge help as a small business to grow outside the U.S.”
Carol describes their product as an upfit for DIYers, to give a fresh look to new projects.
“Sales around the world are better because people are doing more projects on their own right now,” she says. “I hate to say it has been good, but in terms of people looking to redo, it has been great. Instead of throwing it (old furniture) away, let’s just give it a new look. I think people are trying to stay busy.”
People can view videos on the uses of Saltwash on the company’s Facebook page and website. The product is carried locally at Flea Body’s and available to purchase online.