Following last week’s post about exterior materials, we’ve compiled a list of things we often use indoors.
1. Salvaged timber. We use reclaimed douglas fir in many of Locus’ projects, from the traditional to the modern. Our first project, a house for Locus partner Paul Neseth and his wife, had thousands of board feet of reclaimed wood (see the photo following #9 below). It’s not always easy to see the shine behind the grime, as exposing the beauty of salvaged lumber can be labor intensive. One unfortunate fellow, who worked as a carpentry apprentice on Paul’s house, spent a good chunk of a month pushing a belt sander over dirty timbers, bringing them to life. His experience ensured the would wood last another 100 years, and earned him some sizable biceps. The photo below shows a detail of a lodge we designed in northern Minnesota. We sourced reused lumber from Duluth Timber and Manomin Timber, both Minnesota dealers in salvaged wood.
2. Salvaged slate chalkboards. Chalkboards make it into many of our projects, they’re inexpensive and expressive. Kids and adults love them in equal measure; everyone has permission to write on the walls. At cocktail or dinner parties at my house, I draw a big “conversation matrix” on the chalkboard in our dining room. It helps people connect with each other, by illustrating what things they may have in common. It’s always a hit. We buy ours at Bauer Brothers Salvage in Minneapolis.
3. Steel. As I pointed out in an earlier post, steel often has recycled content and is fully recyclable. We use unfinished steel often, and we’re not adverse to seeing it inside. We heat it to get different color variations, it’s inexpensive and easy to install, has an organic depth not possible with more monolithic finishes such as paint, and looks beautiful when contrasted with wood (especially walnut). We’ve used it for ceilings (with magnetic light fixtures), railings, structure, and in this case, an entire wall.
4. Sliding door hardware. We often use surface-mounted sliding doors to make partitions between rooms where we don’t need acoustic separation. They are more like barn doors than pocket doors, don’t get in the way like swinging doors can, and we like the look of the exposed hardware. When we used to build our own projects, we fabricated our own track, but off-the-shelf hardware can be found at www.crown-industrial.com, or sometimes at local building supply stores.
5. Concrete. Because concrete starts in more or less a liquid format, it can be formed into just about any structural shape. We’ve used it to form countertops, sinks, walls, and bookcases. There’s plenty of evidence to show the manufacture of portland cement to be pretty toxic, which is offset to some extent, by the durability of the cured product. From an environmental standpoint, the use of concrete has to be considered carefully. Some concrete mixes utilize fly ash, which is a waste product from firing coal. To some, using fly ash is an environmental benefit, as it uses a waste product (LEED, for example). To others, it is only creating a market for a waste material created by a dirty process – thereby endorsing the general idea of coal firing. That argument has been addressed in more detail out on the net, so I’ll not try to solve it here. While we’ve cast our own surfaces, we now work most often with Nolan King in River Falls, WI. Here’s a photo of a kitchen sink we designed and fabricated to be big enough to double as a winter bathtub for a client’s black lab.
6. FSC Wood. There is already plenty of information about Forest Stewardship Council stamped lumber out there. We like it, specify it, and recommend people use it. We’ve found it to be cost competitive with other framing lumber in the market. We get ours from Certified Wood Products.
7. Veneer plywood or fiberboard. Drywall, commonly known by the product name Sheetrock, looks best the day it is brand new – and degrades shortly thereafter. In our projects, we try to install products that look great new, age gracefully, and are cost competitive. We’ve found wood veneer panels to do just that. They’re more resistant to damage and provide a warmth not possible with drywall. We have compared the cost of installation on a few of our projects and determined installation is pretty cost competitive. It takes more care to install the prefinished panels, but it eliminates taping, mudding, painting, and potentially trim work.
8. Surface Plaster. Our very first project in Minneapolis was plastered by Paul and me on his house in 1995. As with the plywood (see 7.), it continues to age with elegance. It has borne the brunt of bouncing basketballs, deliberate rams with tricycles, collisions with hockey sticks, our more physical arguments (we used to office out of his house!), and even the occasional slam of a radio-controlled helicopter. Still nothing to repaint and no gouges to fix.
Stay tuned for another post on interior products…