To learn about salvaged wood and where it fits into home design we visited Evan Shively and his associate Carly Borman, a woodworker, at Shively's wood salvage yard, Arborica, in Marshall, California. Shively started out as a furniture designer, has been salvaging trees
for twenty years, and is a local legend sought out by architects, designers,
furniture makers and homeowners who are
looking for something special. [These examples at the Arborica showroom, include a magnificent slab of old growth redwood in the foreground, Claro walnut (also known as California black walnut) at rear left, and elm at rear right.]
How do you go
about finding your “salvaged” wood?
Evan: We get calls from a wide
variety of sources, especially about trees that have
just fallen in a park or
private property. In other cases trees
that have to be removed for
development. We like to see these trees given
a second life.What are some of
the other wood products you make from salvaged wood?
Evan: We make flooring both as a solid product and as engineered
flooring. We’ve found that eucalyptus
makes great flooring and we offer this as an engineered wood product. We also get
calls for interior paneling and for ceiling packages. Ceilings are
often made from cypress, redwood or valley oak. Interior paneling is often milled tongue-and-groove as a solid product or
produced as an engineered wood product. These boards can be made from any species.How about beams,
is there much call for these?
Evan: Some architects are ordering beam packages from a variety of
species. The beams are decorative and
give the feel of a timber frame or post and beam structure. The houses are double built meaning the
posts and beams are not structural but give a feeling of solidity to the house
as well as revealing the beauty of the wood.How do you go
about drying the slabs so that they are stable?
Evan: It generally takes about a
year per inch. I have slabs that have
been air drying between 2
and 10 years.What do people like most about using salvaged wood?
come to us first for the beauty of the wood and how it meets their needs. Many also appreciate the fact that we are
salvaging and using a resource in a sustainable way. [At the Hotel Healsburg, the headboards and bedsteads
are made of salvaged bay laurel, photo courtesy Hotel Healdsburg.]
species are usually found in the home?
Carly: It is entirely to taste but
generally people use hardwood species for interior surfaces such as countertops
and dining room tables. Hardwood is more
impervious to dents and scratches and there are a number of beautiful
species.Do people tend to
prefer slabs with live or natural edges?
Carly: Again entirely to taste. Live
edges often find their way on to
coffee tables and sometimes countertops.
We often offer slabs in pairs cut from the same tree. The pairs are used together to make
interesting and beautiful dining room tables.Where else in the
home is your wood found?
Carly: Hardwoods are found in the
dining room, in countertops, and in
flooring. Softwoods such as redwood are often found in
outdoor applications such as decking or siding. We also use cypress as an exterior paneling wood.
According to another wood source, MacBeath Hardwoods, with outlets in California and Utah, there is no standard for wood countertop thickness but
generally at least 1 1/2 inches is the minimum. The thicker the slab, the higher the cost as well as a longer drying
time. For finishing, some excellent FDA rated polyurethanes are safe for food, such as Emmet’s Good Wood Stuff. Some oils are also rated for food preparation.
As you think about where you might add the warmth and character of salvaged wood, consider using it as an
accent, as in this sliding barn door between the kitchen and the family room in Plan 888-18
by architect Nicholas Lee, or as a ceiling treatment, as above in the great room of Plan 888-17
also by Lee. For help with understanding and identifying wood species check out the helpful online Wood Database.