Reclaimed wood can look beautiful and save the planet

  • By Allen Norwood The Charlotte Observer
  • Tuesday, July 8, 2014 1:22pm
  • Life

Reclaimed lumber is among the most environmentally friendly building materials because, as any 12-year-old can explain, recycling is good for us and the planet.

The wood is beautiful. A floor of salvaged antique heart pine glows with the patina of decades, even centuries. Every piece of barn siding is uniquely weathered, which gives a one-of-a-kind appeal to walls and furniture.

Two North Carolina companies, Southend Reclaimed and Kauffman and Co., like nationals as Pottery Barn and Four Hands, are responding to consumers’ appreciation for reclaimed wood.

“Every piece of wood comes with a story,” Southend’s Paul Atkinson said. “Buyers want to know: Did it come from a factory in Alabama, or a warehouse in Kentucky? It’s bringing history alive and bringing it home.”

Southend Reclaimed specializes in salvaged heart pine floors and antique, hand-hewn beams. It has begun selling old barn siding. Kauffman and Co. sells custom furniture, most crafted of wood salvaged from barns in Pennsylvania.

The national companies use lots of reclaimed wood from Asia and South America, where teak and tropical hardwoods are native.

“A lot of our customers bring us a picture, and we start there,” Jonathan Kauffman said. “Lots of our pieces are in vacation homes at the mountains and the beach. (The wood) is aged naturally, so we don’t have to do any distressing.”

Public tastes are evolving as appreciation grows for reclaimed wood.

Reclaimed items blend with other furniture of all sorts, for a collected look. Fans of reclaimed woods like to mix, rather than match. There are pieces for every room of the house.

Wood prices vary by grade — whether there are lots of knots and color variations — and by the length and width of planks. Longer and wider is more expensive. Reclaimed pine costs more than new oak, Atkinson said, perhaps twice as much. But antique pine flooring boards are typically longer and wider than new oak.

Groovystuff, based in Dallas, offers an array of items made from reclaimed teak. Its eight collections range from Adirondack rustic — some items even incorporate old farm equipment — to funky eclectic. Check out the sculptural Bandera dinner table at groovystuff.com.

Four Hands offers furniture made of reclaimed hardwood from South America. Some items have finishes of weathered paint; others are bare weathered wood. Four Hands, based in Austin, Texas, also makes items for Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware and West Elm. Visit fourhands.com.

Furniture makers understand that there’s a finite supply of reclaimed wood. There are lots of old mills and barns, and lots of ancient cypress logs at the bottom of rivers, but not an endless number.

What happens when the supply runs out?

Well, that will be a chapter in the story, too.

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