Fresh Design Ideas for Old Barn Boards
An old barn that is scheduled for demolition offers a wealth of opportunities for the resourceful. Interior beams, joists, and floor boards can be salvaged and restored to their original glory. Uses for the exterior siding are a little more limited, after a lifetime in the elements the boards are weathered, often still holding onto the remnants of their last coat of paint. We think reclaimed barn boards have a wonderful place in contemporary design. They bring a sense of history and character that is hard to find in modern materials and they come with the environmental benefit of reusing a resource that would otherwise be discarded.
Working with reclaimed barn boards is not simple. The boards can be rough, brittle and are by no means square. It takes patience, care and finesse to make these boards work in modern cabinetry. A recent project exemplified the challenges of working with this unique material. The Cabinetmaker first had to mill the boards so they could be attached to a sub-straight for stability and strength while preserving the original face of the boards by milling only the backside. Given the nature of the wood, knots can come loose during the milling process, so after the barn boards were glued up he had the arduous task of filling all the knots with matching pieces of discarded boards. It’s not often that a cabinet maker’s tool of choice is a pair of tweezers, but a good cabinetmaker will go the extra mile.
Floating Shelves. Reclaimed barn boards make great shelves, a rustic look with a modern twist. Creating a mitered edge and matching the grain is no easy task and require true craftsmanship.
Kitchen Islands. The island tends to be the focal point in a kitchen, it is where people gather to eat and socialize and when designed well it can be beautiful as well as functional. The island can be a great place to mix up materials and bring different textures and colors to your space. Consider framing the barn board with hardwood which allows the barn wood to become more of an art piece than just a material choice.
Other creative applications. Barn doors (yes, made from real barns), custom lighting fixtures are a few of the way this cool material can be creatively utilized. Boards can be used to create beautiful feature walls or ceilings, and can be installed in artistic ways to create unique spaces. The options are endless and a little goes a long way. Across the country, there are teams of salvagers who travel around looking for barns that are on their last legs. All the wood is carefully dismantled, kiln-dried and milled to order, ready to be put to use in whatever unique design you choose.