An Insider’s Point of View

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Folks that are passionate about a hobby, their profession, their home, a color, an author, a material, a movement—about anything at all—are fun to talk with. Their enthusiasm is often infectious and they always have something new (and many times unknown to others) to share. I found myself having such a conversation with Roblyn. A naturally creative and design passionate person, armed with an Interior Design degree from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), she has helped many of our clients achieve just what they envisioned with our wood products. Her excitement about color and textures or the latest and greatest in the design world is genuine. It comes across within moments of meeting her. We found comfortable spots in our lounge to chat about what she’s seeing in the design world, what role Thoughtful Sophistication plays, and what she expects we’ll all see more of in the future:

Megan: Thanks for taking the time to chat.

Roblyn: Of course!

M: I wanted to pick your brain a bit. I know you’re into design and often take what you see and create your own experience; personalize it. And you bring that to clients. So what do you think is the next wave, the next trend in our industry?

R: I think we’ll continue to see an aesthetic where designers are taking existing spaces and materials and incorporating them into a modern environment without losing the history or value of what already existed. We’re definitely in a time where there’s a strong desire to celebrate the history—and story—of our environments while marrying them with new elements and the high tech products we want and need to live and work with.

Pioneer Millworks American Gothic Mixed Hardwoods reclaimed paneling

Pioneer Millworks American Gothic Mixed Hardwoods reclaimed paneling

Our Pioneer Millworks office [in Farmington NY] is a good example: it’s a new construction timber frame built from 100-year-old industrial salvaged timber. The carpet has a mid-century vibe, the furniture couldn’t be simpler or cleaner in its lines, but the ceiling is the reclaimed American Prairie (made a little funkier with the addition of some of our proprietary ‘Pioneer green’). It’s a combo of rugged, “retro”, and contemporary, and ultimately feels fresh, warm, and inviting.

I expect that we’ll also see a continued pushing of the limits of materials; with our products the team is constantly experimenting and brainstorming new finishes and textures and techniques. Our sales team (and their clients) are one driver for that innovation. Our clients sometimes ask us for crazy things, and we love the challenge!

Recently we had a client looking for reclaimed gym flooring because they loved the glossy finish and the idea of the random stripes and colors. But they really wanted specific colors and a very specific proportion of those colors. It’s very hard to predict the ratios of colors and concentrations of striping in reclaimed gym flooring, so it requires a bit of flexibility in the design. So rather than reclaimed, we made them a gym floor, using exactly the colors they desired. The team assembled it in the shop, painted the lines, and then took it all apart so there would be just the right mix of colors and stripes for the end user.

Recently we had a client looking for reclaimed gym flooring because they loved the glossy finish and the idea of the random stripes and colors. But they really wanted specific colors and a very specific proportion of those colors. It’s very hard to predict the ratios of colors and concentrations of striping in reclaimed gym flooring, so it requires a bit of flexibility in the design. So rather than reclaimed, we made them a gym floor, using exactly the colors they desired. The team assembled it in the shop, painted the lines, and then took it all apart so there would be just the right mix of colors and stripes for the end user.

 

M: What’s cool to you right now?

R: Hm, that’s tough. There’s always so much that’s new an fun around here. I’m really into how we’re taking old materials and raking surface or making high gloss black and rainbow colors. We’re pushing the intrinsic properties of materials in surprising ways. My personal favorite is a level of eclectic mixtures in spaces; combining materials in unexpected ways for a result that nods to the past but looks ahead; not a specific theme, modern doesnt mean only one look/thing. 

 

Pioneer Millworks Reclaimed Teak

Pioneer Millworks Reclaimed Teak

M: We keep bringing up Thoughtful Sophistication. How do you see it playing a role?

R: It is all part of pushing material boundaries into new directions. To me, it’s about intentionality and a more tailored aesthetic. It’s the opposite of “as-found”. It’s about deliberately choosing our raw materials to put together species and finish combinations that are clearly high quality and made specifically for their application. We wanted to call attention to all of the possibilities, to show that reclaimed wood is so much more than stereotypical barn wood!

Reclaimed Wood Paneling Wall

Wood used in unusual ways is one trend we’re likely to see more of.

That’s the root of this Thoughtful Sophistication series; reclaimed wood is made light, bright, clean, and fresh. It’s colorful, it’s smooth, it’s shiny. There’s nothing wrong with barn wood, we love it, and our customers love it, there’s definitely a place for that look. But with the TS line, we’re taking our favorite wood species and adding finishes that are unexpected to create materials that fill a need and meet new design expectations for modern environments. 

 

Pioneer Millworks reclaimed Mixed Softwoods, Grandma's Attic, with custom blue finish on an accent wall.

Pioneer Millworks reclaimed Mixed Softwoods, Grandma’s Attic, with custom blue finish on an accent wall.

M: Where are some opportunities to include wood that haven’t been exploited yet?

R: I feel like wood can go anywhere. Floors and walls are most common, but how about on the ceiling? A cabinet? A beam wrap? A countertop? Anywhere!

Really I think the question should be about the dimension wood can bring. Any wood can be utilized to create really interesting surfaces. Even something as simple as combining two thicknesses on a wall surface can do so much in terms of adding texture. End-cuts in particular offer varying depths and when mixed together they create shadows and patterns that draw the eye and change how the surface is understood. It also means the way the surface looks can change over the course of the day as light shifts–all of a sudden the wall is, in a sense, alive! Similarly, our Raked texture immediately creates excitement and almost a vibration in the wood, as the eye parses out the surfaces and shadows.

Pioneer Millworks Reclaimed End Block Wall at Village Gate in Rochester, NY.

Pioneer Millworks Reclaimed End Block Wall at Village Gate in Rochester, NY.

 

M: We’re a triple bottom line company and that means each decision is based on people, planet, and prosperity. How do you see social and environmental responsibility continuing to impact design?

R: I think from practical standpoint people right now really care about sustainability and sourcing. I find that colleagues, clients, vendors, and my friends are more discerning, more demanding, and more educated on what it means to really be green or sustainable. We’ve been talking about sustainability as part of our common language in this industry for a long time. We’ve gone through “greenwashing” and seen materials that we thought were going to be very environmentally friendly which turned out to be anything but. Everyone wants a quality product, but they also want to see that it’s ethically produced and authentically environmentally friendly. It makes the designer feel good, makes the end user feel good, creates a healthier space, and ultimately positively impacts the greater community.

Pioneer Millworks Brie & Tysha using non VOC finishes

Pioneer Millworks Brie & Tysha using non VOC finishes

Whether a project is aiming for something like LEED certification or not, it’s something that’s becoming second nature for designers and specifiers to think about in many applications. Also, green materials are more accessible across the marketplace for all sorts of uses. Sometimes it can feel like we’re chasing an unattainable goal, there’s always new research coming out that causes us to review our products and processes. But we’re committed to it because it’s at the very core of what we do, and because it’s something our clients care about. Green is not going away, and I expect we’ll see more and more options in all sorts of products industry-wide.

 

Our finishing and sampling team will just play with finishes and textures in the shop, and come up with something totally unexpected, like our Daydream and Sunset finish colors.

Pioneer Millworks Sunset Finish on Ash

 

M: What’s your favorite species, grade, color?

R: I love anything and everything were doing that is experimenting with color. Bold color, color with textures. Specifically, my current favorite–if I have to pick–is the Sunset finish on hardwoods (Ash). It’s so luxe, it has a bit of iridescence that is part of the natural wood with a finish that’s applied literally by hand. It’s magic!

M: I do love the colors as well. Thanks again for your time and insights, Roblyn. 

R: Sure!

 

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