Walking into the ~Restoration Timber~ San Francisco showroom is like walking into a vintage lumber boutique. Every square foot of flooring is dense, uniquely aged wood. There’s a pagoda of massive old growth beam construction that could have had a parallel existence as a catapult. It stands tall as the centerpiece in the open two-storey space and alludes to the loft space above, where ever more samples await. This is where designers, home-owners, architects come to select premium vintage wood that is still abundant enough to be milled to specification. I find it pretty cool that used wood from a torn down agricultural structure is now considered primo material.
What they offer:
As one would infer from the showroom display, the majority of what comes through ~Restoration Timber’s~ mills goes into making flooring: solid tongue and groove planks and engineered tongue and groove (for a lesser chance of warping and greater efficiency in the solid material), as well as doors, cabinetry, and custom furniture – anything that would have solid wood construction. About a quarter of their business is in old growth solid beams, the big stuff that’s now off-limits to logging.
Where it comes from:
What you see in the showroom comes from one of two main sources: reclaimed or salvaged.
Reclaimed means the wood was used for a previous purpose. It comes mostly from barns in the Midwest – Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio. There’s an occasional industrial building scouted as well. The structures are dismantled and the material sent to one of two mills in Wisconsin & Pennsylvania to be prepped for their next use. Milling is done to the specifications of the client – amazingly customizable for a reclaimed material.
…who else gets calls from Canadian woodsmen about a downed tree? For real.
Salvaged wood is from trees found standing dead or fallen in the forest, or structurally compromised in urban areas. This source is a lot less predictable and comes onto ~Restoration Timber’s~ radar through the many contacts they’ve made over their 10 years in this business. And it’s a seemingly Twin Peaks-esque network of resources – no Log Lady (that was mentioned, anyway), but who else gets calls from Canadian woodsmen about a downed tree? For real.
So, why so many vacant barns?
According to Mike Wilson, part owner and a native Midwesterner, the typical size of the American farm has changed radically since the late 1800’s when many of these barns were built. What were once many small farms over time were consolidated into a handful of massive farms – the average size morphing from a few acres to a few thousand acres, leaving the remnants of the small family farm standing vacant and unneeded.
Many of these barns were built 125 years ago with a projected life span of 50 to 75 years. They were outdated when farmers moved from horse to tractor power and were neglected when farm parcels were grouped into larger and larger farms. Now landowners are paying taxes and insurance for the dilapidated structures – taking them down, returning the site to bare earth is a cost savings for the owner. Reclaiming the wood keeps usable material out of the landfills, chippers, and incinerators, but also stimulates business around a sustainable practice. The whole idea is a very timely meshing of current sustainability ethos, high-end design desires, and domestic business stimulus. ~Restoration Timber’s~ lumber is also certified by the ~FSC~. Bear in mind wood being reclaimed and milled in the Midwest for a project in Northern California is also being shipped 2000 to 3000 miles across the country – that’s outside of our 500-mile radius in Northern California.
~Restoration Timber~ considers itself a service industry. They will help homeowners, architects, designers, and contractors hammer out a specification for material and get them samples to approve. Provide them with a cut list and you will have yourself some incredible historic wood. I can’t help but feel reverence for this material. Trees grew more slowly in the old forests as they were more tightly packed and all had to compete for water, nutrients, and sunlight. That slow growth made for a denser grain and an intense quality that sets it apart from new wood. There should really be wood sommeliers for treasures like these.
You can see some of Restoration Timber’s reclaimed wood installed around San Francisco at ~Urban Outfitters~ and ~Anthropologie~ (wall paneling and flooring), ~The Alembic~ (flooring and bar siding), ~The Ecology Center of San Francisco~, and in the bar at the new Hilton. Also check out some of the samples of wood and workmanship they’ve got lying around their showroom. Square dowel joinery and hand-hewn boards abound!Restoration Timber Showplace East 111 Rhode Island Street, Suite F San Francisco, CA 94103 RESTORATIONTIMBER.COM 888.563.9663