Reaching for Reclaimed Wood

Going with the Grain

Spring is about reinvention, which makes me think about reclaimed wood. I am reminded  of the timbers reclaimed from urban forests that the remarkable Zen priest Paul Discoe mills and then shapes into furniture like his Tenon Bench,

Paul Discoe, tenon bench, redwood IMG_4597where the joint becomes a simple but sculptural gesture of connection and 

Paul Discoe tenoin bench detail

support, and the grain and knots express the nature of the material — as Frank Lloyd Wright so often advocated. Remember that Paul is the craftsman who designed and built the elegant, nail-less, Japanese tea house, gateways, and other

Paul Discoe gateway 1415.Wood.One.0922-2

structures at Larry Ellison’s extraordinary Woodside, California estate that is essentially a reinvention — and riff on, not a rip off — of Katsura, the great Japanese Imperial Villa in Kyoto. So he knows a lot about wood. Paul’s company is called, appropriately, Joinery Structures (images courtesy JS). And a Discoe bench costs somewhat less than an imperial villa — or Larry’s island of Lanai.

But if there is no Zen priest master builder in your neighborhood — or wind-downed trees ready to be milled — here are some other ways to explore the possibilities of reclaimed wood. An increasing  number of companies specialize in dismantling old barns and other usually derelict buildings and re-milling the wood for floors, cabinetry, siding and more. In addition to Authentic Pine Floors, mentioned in a previous post, there is Pioneer Millwork, which offers six reclaimed wood flooring species that run about $7 per square foot. The company’s reclaimed “Mixed Brown-Gray Barn Siding” adds rustic elegance to

Pioneer Millworks -- Jennifers-Tub1

this modern bathroom: it’s on the walls and wraps  the base of the platform tub (I like the way the highly textural rug cleverly resembles wood chips). Pioneer Millwork’s office-showrooms are in Portland and McMinnville, Oregon and Farmington, New York. The company has an entertaining blog called Designing Against The Grain that gives a running commentary on current projects.

Barnwood Industries, founded in 2004 and based in Bend, Oregon, sources its

Barnwood Industries -- Exterior-Beams-2

mostly fir and pine from Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon, and Northern California and offers everything from cabinetry and millwork to dimensional wood beams and vintage timbers, as shown in this porch photo (courtesy Barnwood Industries).

Yet another Oregon-based company is 20-plus year-old Terramai, which specializes in reclaimed woods from around the world and does a lot of commercial as well as residential work. They provided decking and benches for The High Line in New York and some years ago Sunset magazine used Terramai reclaimed wood in an Idea House project.  Terramai is where you will

Terramai Residential_Los Angeles Residence_Cabinet_Slide teak

find reclaimed woods like teak, which was used for the cabinet fronts on this pool counter in Los Angeles. Interestingly, some of Terramai’s wood comes from wood harvested from underwater forests flooded for water storage and power generation. Their network is very wide (photo courtesy Terramai).

There are numerous other possibilities. For example, a friend used beautiful, cinnamon-hued, sustainably harvested  madrone butcher block for  the top of his kitchen island; it’s a good way to warm up a cool modern design. Green Depot, a major source of eco-friendly home building materials — and also, inevitably, based in Oregon — offers countertops in Douglas Fir, Red Alder, Western Maple, Oregon Myrtle, Pacific Madrone, and Northwest Orchard Walnut and


their madrone comes from “urban salvage and windfall.”  I once saw a remarkable dining table milled from a single plank of old growth redwood — well, the Green Depot approach can have a similar effect, but without the 2,000 years worth of guilt (photo courtesy Green Depot). 

To read other posts on eco friendly design click here.

One response to “Reaching for Reclaimed Wood

  1. I love the look and feel that reclaimed wood provides to a room. I like the way that it was used in the modern bathroom project photo. Using this material also makes you feel like you’re doing your part to help the environment.

    Anne Bourne StagingWorks

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