Ideas For Your New Home

History and Beauty - Bringing The Past Into The Present

History and Beauty - Bringing The Past Into The Present

We've talked in previous blogs about some of the more traditional ways to customize your home, making it uniquely your own. But, there's one growing trend that adds a level of beauty not possible to find in a manufactures showroom - reclaimed wood. 

Reclaiming wood that speaks of our architectural and cultural heritage has seen a recent surge, as homeowners, architects, and contractors alike continue to gain new appreciation for its intrinsic value, usability, and beauty. Other reasons for looking to upcycling wood include growing concerns for environmental responsibility, thriftiness, and exponential web access to information and images related to creating beautiful and unique projects that incorporate reclaimed materials. 

Reclaimed wood is original and soulful. Every piece is a slice of history. Homeowners love the way it looks, architects enjoy designing with it, and contractors get excited about getting creative with its installation. Historic structures are an excellent source for large amounts of reclaimed wood because they were built in a time when old growth trees were abundant and wood was the main material used in both domestic and commercial construction. A few examples include:

  • Standing Barns
  • Tobacco Plantation Buildings
  • Retired Mills (plenty of those in Maine)
  • Factories
  • Warehouses
  • Schools
  • Log Cabins
  • Fences
  • Pallets

The walls, floors, and timbers found in these structures find new life when transformed into siding, flooring, framing, features, furniture, and even artwork for some of the finest modern homes, offices, and businesses. Once you’ve formed the habit of seeing, interpreting and listening to the stories of historic wood, you see and hear them everywhere. The bar in your favorite restaurant may be made from reclaimed log cabin beams. The doorway in your neighbor’s home could come from a dismantled distillery in Georgia. The office trim in that new hi-rise could be off an Iowa farmer’s storage building. Reclaimed wood is everywhere!

The Look

Like good cooking that uses age, spice, aroma, distillation and daring to create a savory dish, the use of historical woods presents the designer with a myriad of colors, emotions, and grains to choose from to create a savory look. Textures combine with age, old growth grain patterns, and previous wear for this attractive and pleasant foundation to design. One way to really understand the draw of authentic reclaimed products is to find out or imagine all you can about its previous use. Are there nail holes? Mortise pockets? Scuff marks? Stains? These are all clues to the journey behind your selection or discovery. For example, if your wood comes from the hold of a ship perhaps the natural polish you discover is the result of thousands of repetitions of chains weighing anchor, smooth metal bumping and bouncing along smooth, stout decking. 

The History

The unsung hero of America’s first two industrial revolutions is wood. Wood was used for flooring, siding, beams, and supports in thousands of facilities across the country. It was also a big player in spurring developments in transportation including roads and rail. Wood had to be logged, milled, transported, and handled in new ways as our country developed. The trees that these lumber products came from are the ones logged during America’s first sweep west and march forward into the industrial revolution. Between 1760 and 1840 massive factories rose from America’s forests. These industries included textile manufactures and factories that deployed steam powered tools that took the work out of people’s hands and put them into powerful machines.


Reclaimed is the way to go when stability important, which is why many timber framers prefer old growth, slowly air dried heritage timbers. New wood products, even when kiln dried, are not yet cured and therefore, are potentially unstable. Some woodworkers and designers don’t want to wait to find out how wood is going to age and potentially bend, crack or fade. Only time and circumstance can cure and stabilize wood entirely. That’s why some suppliers repurpose large beams into plank flooring or wall coverings, large mantles, bars, and home accents. This material is cured, beautiful, and durable. Milled pieces can be mistaken for new wood products or they can retain their rustic qualities depending on how they are treated (or not).

No matter where your decorating adventure leads you, don't be afraid to explore. This is the fun part! Share your finishing ideas with your PATCO design/build team. We'd be happy to explore all of the options and resources to make your home just as beautiful as you imagine!

Credit: Distinguished Board and Beams