Wood you believe? Yesterday's timber leads a second life

October 23, 2009|By ROSE BENNETT GILBERT / Creators Syndicate

Q: Our son and his two young children are moving in with us after his divorce. We had planned to move ourselves, but now we'll stay put and add a great room for the kids. Our house is Tudor-style, so we want the new room to blend with the old things, such as the woodwork, stained glass and hardwood floors. We were thinking of using reclaimed wood for the floors and woodwork, but my husband hates the thought of "used" wood. Is it a bad idea?

A: On the contrary, it's a lovely idea. Any way you look at it - aesthetically, ecologically, practically - recycled wood is a terrific way to mellow out new construction and pamper the planet in the process.

There's yet another benefit to using wood that's been reclaimed from old barns, mills, warehouses or even underwater in rivers and lakes, says Jeff Stafford, partner in a company called Restoration Timber. Most wood harvested before the mid-20th century came from what are known as "old-growth," or "first-growth," forests that never had been logged, which meant that the trees were often centuries old, large in diameter and beautifully grained and "character-marked," as they say in the trade.


Besides, those ancient forests contained trees that just aren't around anymore, such as elms and aged chestnuts. Even more garden-variety trees, such as pines, gain charms with age. The floor in the country living room we show here is warmed by random-width pine siding that's been given a light walnut stain and then an oil and wax finish.

On the floor and in the overhead beams, wood is the room-maker - warm to the touch, mellow and soft to the eye.

All the effort that goes into reclaiming, recycling and custom milling comes with a cost, of course, but by buying wood from the past, you also will be investing in the future. Go to to learn more.

Q: Watching your energy budget fly out the window?

A: Here's a shady - but legitimate - way to save money: Take advantage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which allows federal tax credits for energy-efficient products.

One qualifying product is the new Duette Architella honeycomb shade. When these shades are mounted completely inside double-glazed windows, they have insulating R-values of up to 7.86 and will reduce heat transfer by up to 50 percent, according to the manufacturer (Hunter Douglas).

They also may net you federal tax credits for 30 percent (up to $1,500) of their cost, if you buy and install them before Dec. 31 of next year. For more details, go to and also consult your tax adviser.

PS: With some 180 choices in color and design, the shades are as decorative as they are eco-savvy.

Q: I have the world's tiniest powder room; I can almost touch the walls with both elbows. What to do to make it attractive? All our guests go in there.

A: Just ignore the small space. Make a big gesture instead. Consider wallpaper with a wildly overscale pattern, something nondirectional so you can run it over the ceiling, too. Repeat one of its important colors in carpeting or a room-size rug. Then hang the biggest mirror that will fit, and flank it with a pair of handsome sconces. Fresh flowers and fun accessories will do the rest.

Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Hampton Style" and associate editor of Country Decorating Ideas.

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