PNW Sustainable Wood

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What do you think of when you hear “sustainable wood”? Images of reclaimed barn wood comes to mind. Old wood with knots that oozes with history and charm. Reclaimed wood is most definitely a sustainable option, and while people tend to think that it would be more affordable to reuse something that is already cut and ready to go, we’re missing a big piece. It’s not all ready to go.

Reclaimed Wood

First, we need to find the salvagable wood- which means inspecting it on site and shipping it somewhere special to be set aside for reclaimed wood projects or scouting out usable wood from shipyards, demolition sites, etc. So, we have a finder’s fee here, right? Next, that wood has to be restored. I know that it looks banged up and that’s all the charm, but it needs to be stabilized and milled to pull out that beautiful rugged detail. At this point, we’ve seen near the same amount of labor that goes into milling new wood. Add to this the scarcity of the product. It is simply easier to find new wood than it is to find the old stuff. So yes- reclaimed wood is sustainable and beautiful if you have a pretty penny to set aside for this wood.

Local Wood Products

A huge part of what makes anything sustainable is knowing where it came from and locating it regionally. Importing bamboo from Saharan Africa is working with a renewable source, but is it really sustainable if it’s being imported and quite possibly devastating local indigenous tribes? Instead, take a look at Pacific Madrone, Walnut, Big Leaf Maple, White Oak, and Douglas Fir.

One of the challenges I run into as a designer is that owners want to hit up the trend of wood with a rustic appeal. Beating up new wood seems like a big fib, but using shiny polished wood feels so… unsustainable, doesn’t it? Pecky Cypress is making a bit hit, and it’s gorgeous, but it’s not local. Instead of living a lie with wood that looks sustainable but isn’t, educate your friends and family about the fantastic local wood that was used with no formaldehyde and is FSC certified!

Okay, but we looooove that cool space with the rustic, ashy wood don’t we? Remember that we can certainly stain the wood as one option, and another option (my personal favorite) is to enhance the warm glow of wood with cool colors surrounding it. Allow it to take center stage and truly shine! We live in the Pacific Northwest where wood is everywhere we look. Let’s celebrate this beautiful natural resource and what it truly has to offer!

 Absolutely must have a cooler finish? Try Walnut! We love a plain cut, which is not only the least wasteful approach to wood, but also enhances the natural beauty of the grain!

Absolutely must have a cooler finish? Try Walnut! We love a plain cut, which is not only the least wasteful approach to wood, but also enhances the natural beauty of the grain!

 Remember this gorgeous kitchen? We used clear alder and emphasized the warmth with light cool colors everywhere else. It was a perfect balance.

Remember this gorgeous kitchen? We used clear alder and emphasized the warmth with light cool colors everywhere else. It was a perfect balance.

 Who says Asian design must have bamboo? This Asian-Eclectic inspired bathroom used maple cabinets.

Who says Asian design must have bamboo? This Asian-Eclectic inspired bathroom used maple cabinets.

Looking for a rustic effect? Get a high grain wood, like oak! Oak does not have to be the dreaded wood of the 80’s! Let’s face it, the problem with those oak cabinets is that the doors were ugly, not the wood! Consider slab doors to really showcase the wood grain, and simple, low profile hardware. Voila- you have a piece of art rather than an overdone atrocity.

One more thing to cover on keeping these wood choices sustainable. I know it’s a beautiful linear aesthetic, but I’m begging you, please… let go of the rift-cut. Take a look at the Pinterest board below to understand the difference between cuts, and why plain-sawn is the least wasteful, least expensive, and the approach that best shows the beauty of the wood!

Now you are ready to choose the wood for your home!