If Walls Could Talk



Who doesn’t love a good story? When the Coney Island boardwalk was repaired with concrete and plastic, the South American wood was “rescued” and restored, and the new owner of this iconic material now has quite a tale to tell. A hot trend in home design, reclaimed wood is available in varieties ranging from 600-year-old bog or swamp oak to remnants of historic buildings. Accent walls, flooring, benches, tables, decking—its applications are limited only by one’s imagination.

Antique redwood, originally railroaded across the country and recently rescued from now-defunct New York City water towers, is particularly desirable because redwood is no longer harvested. Constructed by barrel makers in the 1800s, these towers were used to store and deliver water to the top floors of New York skyscrapers. Strong yet light and water-resistant, this wood can be creatively optimized by highlighting the patterns made over time by water. Combining the interior, water-stained wood with exterior wood that was exposed to rain, wind and local natural elements takes the time-worn look up a notch. And owning a piece of the New York skyline is priceless

Gus Retsinas, a wood flooring specialist at Manhattan Forest Products, insists that the days of tossing scrap materials are gone. “Green is in. When a building is demolished, someone wants the bricks, someone else the wood.” Their New York showroom features a walk-in closet with reclaimed wood flooring, finished with natural oils to bring out its intrinsic color and beauty. (The treatment does for wood what hand cream does for dry skin.) Many customers, including well-known celebrities, seek this material out for “the look” as well as “the story.” Prices range from roughly $11 to $40 per square foot.

Another popular source for wood as conversation piece: the stock of reclaimed wood from the Marsellus Casket Company, famed for fine wood caskets used by notables like John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Onassis, Richard Nixon and Mickey Mantle. Established in 1882, their building was destroyed in a 2010 fire. The owners could not rebuild, much of the wood was reclaimed, and so the story lives on. “People are knowledgeable and discerning,” says Retsinas. “Many seek out a specific source or finish. Each time-worn board has its own character, thanks in part to its original geographic location. Oak from New England isn’t identical to oak from Michigan.”

When building their Santa Fe home, the Alexanders used reclaimed wood extensively. Ceiling beams were constructed from trees that died naturally and had intrinsic rustic character. Some flooring was purchased from an upstate New York mill that cut the wood before the tree was downed. By so doing, the width of the planks measures in at an exceptional 24 inches; there are also fewer seams and an undeniable originality. Old barn wood appealed to them because it had been hand chiseled. Yet another wood they selected was milled and three inches thick, providing a unique look as well as superb soundproofing.

Is leather your preference? Ecodomo’s line of reclaimed (recycled) leather comes from tanneries that produce for BMW, Coach and the like. Made from at least 70% pre-consumer recycled material, it’s shredded and bound with natural latex and bark. Versatile and economical, it can be used anywhere wood veneer is applied. Remodeling your entertainment area? Why not opt for wood flooring from a famed brewery, a chandelier crafted from antique wine barrels and a recycled BMW sofa? It’s all about the look…and the story!