Combining Reclaimed Wood Furniture with Custom Handmade Pieces for a Space That’s Uniquely Yours
Things change, sometimes so slowly you don’t even notice. For instance, I get my chicken from the local market, which ideally comes from a nearby farm. But my great-grandparents got their chicken directly from the coop in the backyard. It wasn’t something I’d ever thought about, until I asked my Dad about the new wooden cutting board he had next to the plastic one by the stove.
As a furniture maker, my eyes are always drawn to beautiful wood, and this was something else. It was old, I could tell, with a beautiful grain. It reminded me of reclaimed wood furniture I sometimes see when I’m visiting friends. The top, by the handle, was uneven, split and splintered, but so long ago that it was no longer frayed, and the finish that someone applied had sealed the edges that remained. The wood was hard and heavy—Texas live oak—who would use that for a cutting board?
I asked my dad where he bought it, and he told me that he hadn’t. I asked him who had made it, and he said he had. Stunned, I asked where he got the wood, and why he’d bothered to make a cutting board at all. He told me that it was his grandfather’s chopping block; he’d found it down in the basement. So he was using the same piece of wood to prepare his chicken dinners that my great-grandparents had used for theirs. The beauty of reclaimed wood furniture or pieces like this cutting board is that they carry rich tradition with them, and combined with new, handmade custom furniture pieces, your home can be both unique to you and also full of robust family history.
This Farmhouse Tablereminds us of simpler times.
Beauty and Historicity in Reclaimed Wood
I’ve been thinking for weeks now about how amazing it was to ask about the cutting board and to find out that this same piece of wood had survived so long, to tell this simple story from my past. It retains a useful function, that wood, while it also does something more. It’s beautiful in and of itself—but that’s not what makes it unique or personal. That beauty can easily be reproduced with a similar piece of wood, even a new one. But a century of family history, local history, and national history imbued in a cutting board—and every delicious meal that it creates—cannot. Especially when that history has otherwise vanished; without that cutting board, there’d not be even the memory of the old chopping block in my family.
Which is why it’s no surprise that across the United States—wherever old farms have turned to strip malls, office parks, and cul-de-sacs—people are finding ramshackle stables, barns, warehouses, and anything else about to go the way of the 5￠ hamburger, and they are tearing out the wood, stripping the nails, and building chairs and tables from what otherwise would become rubble.
The furniture this wood makes, if done well, can be deeply memorable. It might not be the first piece you notice in a room, but it’s the one you’ll still be thinking of a month later. Does it feel better to sit in a chair, or eat at a table, made of reclaimed wood? Physically, probably not, but emotionally, very easily yes. In our shifting and impermanent world, it feels good to rest on something solid. So, after reading this, the next step is pretty obvious: to go out and fill your house entirely with reclaimed wood furniture, right?
What if the desk where you work was made out of your grandfather’s grain barge, like the Briar Desk?
Mixing in the Modern: Decorating with Custom and Reclaimed Wood Furniture
Well, not quite. Sure, the past is important, but so is the present. If all you study is classical poetry, you miss out on any of the equal talents alive today. They do make them like they used to; they’re just different. Our country is mélange, a combination of its parts, better for the inclusion of disparate, unique elements. If the only furniture you have in your house is made of reclaimed wood, it may seem like too much, too forced, or too heavy-handed—a work of imitation that misses the intention of the original.
Instead, consider a mix. Bring in reclaimed wood furniture when you find a piece that speaks to you, or has a personal historical connection. If a reclaimed wood creation is a centerpiece in your home, say as your dining table, then work around it. Adding more reclaimed wood may add to the effect, or it may dilute it.
You may be able to find complementary furniture in antique stores, thrift stores, department stores, or even modern furniture showrooms. But the only way to find furniture that meets your needs exactly is to have that furniture custom built. Turning to a custom furniture maker allows you to ensure it fits, both physically and aesthetically, with the home and furniture you already have.
It makes the story better, too. Adding a second piece of reclaimed wood furniture to your home doesn’t give you a second story to tell. It just makes the first one a little longer. With a piece of new custom furniture, you can talk with your guests of the past and the present. Not just the roots of your family, but the flowers, too.
At Unruh Furniture, we handcraft custom hardwood furniture with all the care and attention of the generations before us. To find the perfect piece for your home and family, schedule a visit to our Dallas showroom.