Special Millwork Projects Require Beautiful Reclaimed Lumber Like This

Last week, I wrote about my friends who removed their old Douglas fir interior doors and replaced them with fake wood, hollow-core numbers instead. This was an ill-advised move for a couple of reasons: The old doors had tons of character, but it was a waste because the old slabs also ended up in a landfill. Personally, I would have made the minor repairs—scraping, patching, sanding, and (maybe) painting—and kept the doors. But if I HAD to replace the doors, I would have salvaged the Douglas fir for something else–a dining table, shelves, end tables. 

The quality of old wood is the main reason salvaged/reclaimed wood is so popular and why the number of companies that offer this material is growing. Salvaged wood is the lumber that comes from dead, rotting trees or logs that have been submerged in water for 100 years, while reclaimed lumber is wood that is processed from railroad ties, wine barrels, bridges, railroad tracks, old industrial buildings, barns, warehouses, and other structures. Both types are equally excellent. 

I know many companies that offer this wood, but I just found another, Coast EcoTimber of British Columbia, Canada. Launched in 2007, the company explores the West Coast, Pacific Northwest, and Vancouver Island for certified salvaged timber from driftwood and reclaimed lumber from buildings, but it also processes tropical hardwoods recovered from an underwater jungle that Theodore Roosevelt created in 1913 (in Central America) when he dammed the Chagres River. Using underwater submersible hydraulic saws that run on vegetable oil, the company harvests the preserved hardwoods. 

But why go through so much trouble just to get wood? Because “reclaimed wood can lift a development from the ordinary to the sublime,” the company says. And it’s not just blowing smoke. Salvaged wood comes from old-growth trees, so the boards are high quality, hard and stable, with tight grains, deep colors, and unique patterns. It’s one reason the wood is so pricey. It also costs a mint because processing the wood is labor intensive but totally worth every penny.

Coast EcoTimber offers Douglas fir, red cedar, and Alaskan yellow cedar, as well as tropical species such as cumaru, ipe, espave, zapatero, and Cedro Espino. www.coastecotimber.com.

Coast Eco Timber takes this...

...and this...

...and turns it into this...

...and this...

...and this...

...and this...

...and this.

If You Dig Flowers, Check Out New Ravenna’s Handmade Glass Mosaics

Personally, I think wallpaper is one of the worst things you can do to a house, yet interior designers doing residential and hospitality work love it and can’t seem to use enough of the stuff. Tiles that look like wallpaper, if you’re into that, might be a better way to go. Here’s an option: Jacqueline, a new line of jewel glass mosaic tiles from New Ravenna. Designed by founder and designer Sara Baldwin, each piece of glass is cut by waterjet and assembled by hand in the company’s Exmore, Va., studio. The line is available in three colors—white, blue, and green—for vertical applications and in Thassos marble for floors and walls. www.newravenna.com.

Kerdi-Line Brings More Choices to the Linear Drain Category

Back in March, I did a post about a new type of bath drain that is a much cooler alternative to the regular round jobs we know here in the U.S. It has been one of our most popular posts, and for good reason. Well, the category just got a little bigger because I’ve found another one. Schluter Systems has finally released its version of the product. Kerdi-Line drain is a low-profile unit that fits contemporary-style baths nicely, but it’s also perfect for zero-clearance, wheelchair-accessible showers. Ranging from 20 inches to 48 inches long, the drain has an adjustable grate frame to accommodate different tile thicknesses and comes with three interchangeable grate designs: brushed stainless steel with side drainage, traditional design with square grate openings, and inverted design for tile installation. www.schluter.com.

Tile Week 2011, Day 5: Few Companies Do Textured Tiles Like Mutina Ceramiche

Reports from the tile shows in Spain and Italy say texture is one of the hottest trends in the industry. In the last few years, no company—at least none than we’ve seen—has introduced cooler and more innovative textured products than the Italian producer Mutina Ceramiche. It recently added new textured lines, Phenomenon by Japanese designer Tokujin Yoshioka and Bas Relief by Mutina (designed by Patricia Urquiola), to a stellar Dechirer line, which, coincidentally, was also designed by Urquiola back in 2008. Where Dechirer is a subtly textured unglazed porcelain tile collection that is reminiscent of concrete, Bas Relief is a wall and floor collection with more depth and deeper textures. The lines are available in various sizes, colors, and patterns. www.mutina.it.

Bas Relief

Bas Relief

Bas Relief




Tile Week 2011, Day 1: These Concrete Tiles Look Nothing Like Your Sidewalk

In honor of Coverings, the annual U.S. stone and tile extravaganza that took place last month, we decided to dedicate this entire week to tile. Tapping our many eyes and ears, we’ve assembled some of the coolest, most provocative tile offerings you’ll find anywhere—such as these handmade concrete tiles from Los Angeles-based Granada Tile. Don’t let the material fool you. These tiles have a smooth silky feel, and they come in vibrant colors (Echo Collection), terrazzo-like products (Milano Collection), or they can look like regular terracotta (Rustico Collection). Handmade in Nicaragua, the tiles are available in various sizes (6 inches by 6 inches, 8 inches by 8 inches, 10 inches by 10 inches), and you can buy them through the company’s website at www.granadatile.com.

Follow These Tips to Save Money on Your Renovation Projects

Boy, have times changed. Once upon a time, when people were flush with cash and home values were going through the roof, no product was too good for a renovation. Stone countertops? Of course. Home theater system? Why not! Whirlpool tub? Hell yeah. After all, home owners were certain they’d get their money back when they sell the house for $200,000 more than they paid. But a renovation today is a different deal, one that’s largely about value. Well, we love a good value here at the Q, so we’ve compiled a list of 10 ways you can save some dough on your next renovation project.

1. Get an Energy Audit

Let’s assume you’re doing a relatively major renovation, and let’s assume you’ll be staying in your house for a while. What’s the point in improving the look and not giving it an energy upgrade as well? So, before you do anything—and we mean anything!—call your local utility and ask about its energy audit program. An energy audit is like an inspection for your house, except everything focuses on how your house uses or wastes energy. A trained auditor will identify weak points and make recommendations on how to correct problems. In some cases, utilities offer free energy audits, but in most cases you get a reduce rate as low as $100. It will be the best money you ever spend.

2. Look for Rebates

There is nothing like getting stuff for free or at a significantly reduced rate. The federal government offers (or offered) many rebates for energy efficiency upgrades and Energy Star appliances, but some of those programs have expired. States and county governments, however, offer their own. Call and ask about rebates for energy home improvements, water efficient toilets, and Energy Star appliances. Some of these programs have been scaled back because of budget cuts, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

3. Evaluate What Can Be Saved

Depending on the year of your home, there could be quality products—old-growth millwork and floors, mantels, or architectural metal work—hidden in plain sight that can either (a) be reused in your remodel or (b) sold or donated (for tax write-offs) to a reuse center. Some products only look old, but a little elbow grease can have them looking like new. Older products that have been cleaned up often exude character-making patina, giving your reno a cool bohemian vibe. Plus, using old stuff means you don’t have to spend money on new stuff, which means more cash for cool tiles or that Scandinavian wood stove.

4. Visit Salvaged Yards and Reuse Centers

There is nothing worse than paying good money for inferior products at a big box store. You could avoid this by checking a good salvaged yard, which is an underrated source for such items as solid wood doors, kitchen cabinets, pedestal sinks, radiators, fireplace mantels, and much much more. Most cities have a reuse center or a Habitat for Humanity Restores that carry used and surplus building materials and products at a fraction of the retail price.

5. Always Look for Remnants and Leftovers

When stone yards and lumber mills get to the end of their stock, small pieces are usually left lying around unsold. If you only need a small piece for, say, a countertop, it’s a perfect opportunity to haggle for a good deal. Home supply stores and other stores also offer great bargains in the “as-is” section. Check often. Even companies on the Web offer “seconds” and “handy man specials” at a drastically reduce rate than their normal lines, so always ask. 

6. Find New Uses for Old Products

Molding, wood vanities, and wall paneling can be pricey, but with a little imagination, you can find affordable replacements that look just as good. For example, an old bureau makes a good bath vanity (provided you find the right size), and oak or maple plywood with a little stain or polyurethane makes great wall panel on an accent wall. Consider this: an 8-foot length of medium density fiberboard trim costs about $8 at a big box home supply store; the same length in wood runs about $10.50. But if you buy a 4-foot-by-8-foot sheet of MDF and cut 16 3-inch strips from it, the cost is $1.87 per piece. Once painted up, the trim looks just like wood.

7. Ikea is Your Friend

You certainly don’t want your house kitted out in products with funny-sounding names, but the Swedish company makes some value-oriented items that cannot be beat. Ikea’s Akurum kitchen cabinet line is a great product (for the money), its wood countertops are excellent, the Pax wardrobe system can be the foundation for cool storage solutions, and the lighting selection is totally underrated.

8. Consider the DIY Option

In most cases, the biggest expenditure you will make in a renovation or a remodel is the money you’ll pay contractors and sub-contractors. That’s because labor is costly. (Electricians and plumbers often charge about $75 just to show up to your house.) But you can drastically cut your budget by doing some or (if you’re really handy) all of the work yourself, which is why do-it-yourself home improvement shows on HGTV and the DIY Network are so popular. But beware: Your DIY results are unlikely to look as good as that of a quality professional and DIY work is not as easy as they make it appear on TV or in magazines. Mistakes happen and sometimes they—plumbing, electrical, and structural, in particular—can be costly and dangerous, so make sure you think about this option carefully.

Want Your Remodel to Rock? Try Sugar-Palm Flooring or Wall Panels

Deco sugar-palm paneling

Deco Sugar-Palm Flooring

Smith & Fong Co.

The word “differentiation” is often over-used, especially when it comes from home builders. But you still want your remodeling or renovation to be unique so we recommend using something cool and different. We have one word: palm. Smith & Fong—the San Francisco-based company that sells the Plyboo line of bamboo products as well as Durapalm coconut palm line—has added a new line of Deco sugar-palm plywood, wall paneling, and flooring products. Unlike regular wall paneling, Deco palm products’ three-dimensional appearance is more architecturally interesting, which should make the neighbors jealous. Floor planks measure 3 inches wide; plywood measures 36 inches by 96 inches; and panels are 6 inches by 48 inches. www.plyboo.com.

products we love: salvaged wood


No matter what anyone tells you, the best wood in the world comes from a tree that was cut 50, 60, maybe even a 100 years ago. Why? Because the wood will have tighter grains and denser cells than anything today. The manufacturer knows this, which is why it uses old wine barrels from the Napa Valley region of California to make the flooring in its Vintage Barrel Collection. These are white oak. www.fontenay.us.