Q: I love the reclaimed lumber look and would love to add some of that texture to my home. Do you have any suggestions on where and how I can feature it for maximum impact?
A: While it may seem like a daunting task, adding reclaimed lumber can be quite easy. Even a small piece can dramatically add to a space’s character and charm — and the best part is it’s functional. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Create a bold new mantel
This is a fun way to introduce reclaimed lumber into your home. Along with a fireplace, the mantel is typically the focal point of a living room. By updating it with reclaimed lumber, you’ll add a striking natural element that will transform the entire space.
The great thing about reclaimed lumber is that when it’s paired with different surrounds — the non-combustible material around the fireplace — it can radically alter the vibe. For example, adding a beam mantel to a stone surround will generate a rustic atmosphere, whereas pairing it with smooth concrete or tile surround will give you a minimal, modern feel.
A mantel should extend 6–8 inches past the fireplace opening on both sides. Thickness varies depending on the type of material and the look you’re going for, but a large timber mantel should be around 3–4 inches thick and 10–12 inches deep, providing visual heaviness. This also means physical heaviness, so be sure to secure the lumber firmly to the wall or have a contractor do it for you.
When picking the lumber, there are a few things to keep in mind: the depth of the wood (how big are the items you’re putting on your mantel?); where it sits on the wall in relation to the fireplace and the ceiling; how you’ll mount it; and the overall look you’re going for. Live-edge lumber can add real flare, but its curviness means its depth will vary across the board (10 inches deep at one spot but only 4 inches deep at another). This is the kind of thing you’ll need to consider before you begin.
Upgrade your wall paneling
The fun thing about wall paneling is that it can be done in horizontal or vertical patterns. A vertical application can visually “raise” your ceilings, while a horizontal use can give you a rustic-barn look and allow you to utilize longer boards from a salvage shop. Either way, your lumber-savvy guests will note the tightness of the old-growth grain — not to mention the nail stains that demonstrate that it’s real reclaimed lumber and not a knockoff.
A reclaimed lumber accent wall creates a warm, natural feeling that offsets walls painted in solid colors. You can use the same wood type to create visual interest while staying very neutral, or mix it up with a variety of cuts, stains and paint-laden scraps of wood for a funky look. By using scrap pieces to create wall paneling, you can use the bits of leftover wood as painted, one-off or textured elements to create a one-of-a-kind piece of functional art.
Install a stylish counter or bar
With butcher-block counters all the rage, this is a perfect time to upcycle some reclaimed materials. I highly suggest using maple gym flooring and bowling alley lane wood, as they’re strong and durable. This upcycled wood often bears the markings of its past life — basketball key lines and bowling pin arrows — and will delight your guests. You can also find such pieces without these marks for a more understated piece with the same high quality.
Add some striking shelves
First, you’ll need to decide whether to go with traditional L-shaped brackets or attempt a floating shelf. Brackets give you another design element, but they require more space below your shelf. They’re easier to install but must line up with the studs in your walls. Floating shelves offer a sleeker quality, but they’re more challenging to install. Another fun reuse option is using old rope to suspend the shelves from above.
Consider a little carpentry
If you have some woodworking skill, you can create furniture or a decorative accent piece for your home. Depending on where you’d like to add a little rustic charm, you can make anything from a coffee table to a kitchen bench, or even a kitchen island. You can also save some work by repurposing an older table base or set of legs; simply secure them beneath a beautiful, reclaimed board or live-edge slab.
Lacy Kabrich works for Earthwise Architectural Salvage and is a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBAKS’s nearly 3,000 members, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.