For the past several years, reclaimed wood has been on the rise. It’s appearing everywhere, from coffee shops to high-end restaurants, as tables, bars, islands, beds… if it can be built out of wood, someone has probably built it out of reclaimed wood by now. So why is reclaimed wood so popular all of a sudden, when it’s been around for hundreds of years?
In art history, we see that movements are a reaction to a moment in history. Sometimes art is a passive expression of that time; sometimes it is an act of rebellion. For a century the art world rebelled against “the man,” rebelled against tradition and experimented with new ways of viewing and projecting the world around us. I don’t want to bore you with details (if you’re interested, take a class on modern art, it will explain it much more clearly than I will) but basically, for over a hundred years, design trends became more and more radical, which is how up until recently furniture (and architecture) became more and more simplified, or modern, leading people to design kitchens and dining rooms with only white, black and clear furniture. A lot of people still like this style, and there’s nothing wrong with “Scandinavian design,” but things have definitely changed, especially in America.
And then things changed again, as they tend to do, instead of looking behind instead of forward, to a time when things lasted and were built by hand instead of mass-produced. They didn’t want a “clean” look anymore, but one that had personality. No longer was mass production a thing to be excited about, and long gone were the days of wanting cookie-cutter products. People wanted something unique, custom and durable, as well as something that was sustainable and ethically produced - and that’s where rustic and industrial design came into play. Reclaimed wood fit the bill perfectly for creating furniture that would fit into this old-but-new era.
Firstly, to use reclaimed wood is to re-purpose old material. While some companies call anything that used to be something else “reclaimed” (a fence, or a pallet, for example) when we refer to reclaimed wood we’re talking about up-cycling wood that has been around for the past hundred or two hundred years and now needs a new purpose. Our reclaimed wood often comes from barns, factories, windmills, lighthouses or railroad tracks that are no longer in use.
Secondly, the wood that was used to build these old factories and barns grew to maturity and are much stronger woods than the new woods that are farmed today for timber. Nowadays, trees are cut down as soon as they’re mature enough - really, as soon as they’re big enough - and aren’t given a chance to keep growing slowly. For that reason, reclaimed woods have tighter rings and grain and are much less porous than new woods; newer, younger woods have softer and weaker planks that can’t take as much wear and tear as reclaimed woods can. Reclaimed woods have better quality and have already stood the test of time. One way that you can tell immediately is that reclaimed woods are much heavier than new woods. Try lifting an oak table of the same size as a reclaimed oak table and you’ll see that the reclaimed wood is much heavier, just because the wood has a much higher density.
Thirdly, reclaimed wood has a lot of character. No two pieces are the same - planks of reclaimed wood often have nail holes, knots, cracks, and wormholes. Some people like to fill the holes and some like to keep the wood as natural as possible. These little details carry history within them. Each plank of wood comes with memories; they used to be a part of someone else’s story and now they can become a part of yours, whether in the form of a farmhouse style table, a kitchen island, or even your bedroom set. That’s something super special and we always tell our clients where their particular reclaimed wood comes from.
These are just a few reasons why using reclaimed wood is a great option. I love having a reclaimed wood table because it’s super strong and I don’t need to sacrifice beauty for quality - something that I think a lot of us tend to do when we start having kids! I don’t need to worry about my one-year-old putting scratches in our farm table because it’s pretty hard to beat the table up, and if he does, all I need to do is use a piece of sandpaper and re-apply some danish oil and the table is as good as new! If I had a table made out of a softer wood or that was stained or varnished I would have no such luck. There’s no downside to getting furniture made out of reclaimed wood and we love being a part of the new history that you’re making from something that already has lots of history to it.