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Reclaiming wood and repurposing furniture has an obvious benefit: It decreases what goes into our landfills. Add to that the incredible beauty that the rich tones and textures that aged wood brings to an interior space, and it’s plain to see why this trend is so popular in both contemporary and traditional spaces. Instead of taking new pieces and distressing them to look old, consumers now want the real thing. They want the gorgeous patinas and histories of reclaimed wood to integrate into both remodeling projects and new construction.
At the turn of the last century, buildings were mostly constructed with locally available materials. As such, retrieving timbers and beams from a barn in Massachusetts will likely be different from those recovered in Alabama.
Consumers have different reasons for seeking old wood. Durability is high on the list for some, making hard maple a good choice. Black maple trees that took several hundred years to grow and were more resistant to mold and insects than trees grown today make their wood worth reclaiming. Other consumers appreciate a rare species of wood like that of the American chestnut. Once a plentiful tree in the Appalachian region, the American chestnut was devastated by a disease called chestnut blight in the early 1900s, resulting in a rapid, widespread die-off and making this wood very difficult to find.
There are various applications for reclaimed wood, and a few are explored below:
SLIDING BARN DOORS
These hugely popular doors offer both rustic charm and functionality not achieved with conventional doors.
Perhaps you are a television lover who doesn’t care for the look of a traditional entertainment center. Using a barn door to slide in front of the TV when not in use might be the perfect aesthetic solution.
Wide barn doors will allow you to open up and incorporate an entire additional room that can be closed off when not in use. Let’s face it, the kids’ playroom is not always tidy. Being able to close off that space at night or when the in-laws drop by unexpectedly is a great feature. When the playroom is in great shape, open it up!
The same concept works for your home office. It can be very inviting and help you not feel so closed in with the doors wide open. When you need privacy and a quiet place to think, closing the doors helps.
Reclaimed hand-hewn* barn beams are being used in many homes to add a unique warmth and sense of history that is unique to rustic wood. These beams are absolutely stunning in kitchens and great rooms and will definitely “wow” your guests. The process is much more than simply retrieving beams from an old barn, so expect a hefty price tag. Each beam will need to be power washed, have old metal removed (such as nails and hinges), be custom cut, brush sanded and treated for insects.
Even if dark wood isn’t your thing, you can add tons of character to an otherwise boring space with a little Scandinavian style. The web is full of DIYers’ white oiled wood formulas you can use to transform your dark wood into something light and bright while still allowing the beautiful grain and texture of the reclaimed wood to show through.
Heart pine was a durable choice for textile mill floors in the Southeast, so it’s a good bet it will stand up to the demands of your family. Reclaimed pine costs nearly twice as much as new oak, but the antique pine flooring boards are typically longer and wider than new oak.
Timbers, beams, planks and the like are great, but if you already have a piece of cherished antique furniture, you’re ahead of the game. Find a way to use that gem, even if it means changing its purpose. Sweet Grandma Mary will love that you kept her old dresser and converted it to a gorgeous bath vanity. Changing the purpose doesn’t negate the sentimental value—the story remains.
With reclaimed wood and repurposed furniture, the charming imperfections are to be appreciated, not covered up. No style is more on trend than the personalization of using something with history in your home. Whether it’s a piece of family furniture or a section of cedar you salvaged, these pieces will serve to make your home a reflection of your life, interests, and perhaps even your background.
*Adj. 1. hand-hewn—cut or shaped with hard blows of a heavy cutting instrument like an ax or chisel.
JEANNINE MILLER manages Moss Building & Design’s community relations department, which provides the HandyMOM 101 and HandyGirl 101 workshop programs to community groups in addition to supporting various charitable fundraising events throughout Northern Virginia. Email [email protected]