How would you describe it?

“How would you describe Pioneer Millworks and the beauty of our products to a blind person?” Our Japanese partners asked us this very question. After posing it to members of our team we asked them to reply anonymously. We are continually impressed with the thoughtfulness and creativity of our team and wanted to share with you:

(The images in this post are from our Twitter “Texture Tuesday” collection. We’re inspired by the character, colors, and macro views of wood we find in our mill, yard, and offices. We hope you enjoy them as well!)

img_7804“The wild of nature, brought in from the outdoors. Each piece has its own story to tell, its own scars and wrinkles from a long life before us. As a whole, it’s a complex mix of swirls and patterns, tones and textures that are as intoxicating to your senses as a bite of cold vanilla ice-cream and warm caramel syrup.”

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img_7936“What a tough and interesting question. It would change the answer if the blind person had had sight and lost it, versus having always been blind. If they’d had sight, we could assume they’d understand and remember things such as colors, or wood grain, or the width and lengths of wood and how they connect. I went with the assumption that they’d never had sight:

Pioneer Millworks has reclaimed over 26 million board feet of wood across the country from industrial and agricultural structures that are no longer in use and have often fallen into disrepair. The wood we reclaim is destined for landfills, burners, or to simply rot away. Part of the beauty of using Pioneer Millworks’ products is knowing you’re helping recycle and reuse; you have a hand in keeping our planet healthy.

There is beauty in the story each plank, joist, or timber holds. Some could tell of thousands of footfalls from young men earning a living building tractors, others could tell of women striding and sitting while operating embroidery machinery, others know the skill of artisans creating ornate tiles with heavy clay and bright glazes, while still others could speak to years of abundant harvest, of severe drought, of blistering summers, freezing winters, soft spring rains, and the gentle sounds of livestock settling as nights slid over the farm more than a hundred years ago. In our Oregon and New York mills each plank is studied and honored by our craftsmen as they trim, plane, mould, sand, and fulfill orders.

Character is beauty. The character of our antique wood hints to the stories of its past, of man and nature: tight grain patterns, deep patinas, original saw marks, ferrous staining with occasional nail holes, weathered surfaces, remnants of paint. Random length boards abut one another creating a harmonious mosaic on walls and floors. Beneath the bare foot a reclaimed wood floor is solid, cool, and smooth with a soft luster from our preferred natural oil/wax finish. To touch the surface offers interest of varying textures. From subtle grain ridges, flat knots, and softly curving marks where an old saw blade struck the log into planks, to deeply grooved, weather worn fascias.”

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img_8819“Our reclaimed wood emboldens projects effortlessly complementing every style.”

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img_9653“I would say our wood is warmer than most since it holds the souls of previous owners.”

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img_8819“Pioneer Millworks is a is a company of designers and craftspeople who work every day to provide wood flooring, paneling, timbers, and millwork, using wood salvaged from barns, warehouses, factories, shipping containers and more.  The products we craft from these 20 or more species of reclaimed wood are a mosaic of color and texture and exude the warmth and natural beauty that only hundreds of years of age can provide.”

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img_6335“Rough swirls of hard natural fibers in linear planks in a rage of gold to brown.”

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img_1954“I would talk about the texture, the combination of smooth and rough in our patina and skip planed floors. I would talk about how the scars of it’s previous life, those nail holes and insect marks, each little pin hole that interrupts the smooth surface of American Gothic, tell a story of a life of purpose and function.

I would talk about it’s durability under foot, the solid feel of the dense grain antique wood, the sturdy sound of it as you walk across the floor. I’d describe the smell- rich wood and sawdust, the warm smell of a natural oil finish. The silk-soft surface of a well burnished surface underfoot or in hand.”

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img_6732Pioneer Millworks is the vehicle by which our reclaimed wood comes to a second, or third, chapter in their story…telling the tales of where it has been, and its original intended use.  The texture of the saw marks, the bolt holes, and the mortise pockets are all physical examples and evidence of the story it wants to tell.  You can feel the history with your hands, poke your fingers in the holes and know it has a past.

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img_6403“Reclaimed wood is as wonderful to ponder and touch as it is on display. Sure, designers look to the relationship of hues to the room, but unlike paint or fabric or other surfaces, reclaimed wood is more than ‘tommy grey’ or ‘burnt brown.’ Imagine if you will, you have no vision or that color doesn’t matter. Reclaimed wood then becomes an adventure for the other senses. For your nose, a smell from another century, sometimes musty sometimes piney, and always earthy. (Sometimes when even our best wood experts can’t identify a species, we take out our knives to score through the patina and breathe in the newly exposed cells.) For touch, a myriad of adventures in texture lay before you  — you can travel up weathered ridges of alternating sapwood and heartwood, or follow small trails where tepid explorers once burrowed their way through the fibers, or pause at round and oblong pits where nails or bolts secured timber to timber. And if your fingers don’t find these signs of previous life, perhaps your hand will pass along perfectly parallel lines curving gracefully across the plank’s face, a rough memorial to a different era when craft was slow. Lastly, there’s the sense of heart and soul that is reclaimed wood. No two planks are the same (thank goodness!), some pieces endured decades, some centuries, of weather and wear, ready to start a new adventure. And in doing so, perhaps saving a new tree from mass consumption. While Stormy Grey may drive the choice, the real color is in the story.”

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Harmony on Hudson

harmony-on-hudson-imageWhen Greg & Dee approached us about their family’s timber frame retreat home we knew it was going to be fun. They had great plans and land with amazing views – but more, their goal was to create a home as environmentally friendly as possible. Eliminating VOCs and incorporating reclaimed and organic materials (plus a solar array) were “must have” elements. We recently had a chance to chat with Greg about life on the mountain:

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Expansive views of Catamount and Butternut Mountains enjoyed from the home.

 

“Well firstly, we loved the rich color and character we saw in the reclaimed timbers in the showroom,” explains Greg. “Now that they’re part of our home, we are so pleased that we went this direction.”

pmw-timbers-barn-siding-walnut-ent-ctr-and-floor_web_shGreg has a special affinity for a particular Douglas fir post near the kitchen. It isn’t uncommon to see him hugging the post on his way into the common areas. “Every time I come into the house after I haven’t been there for a while, there is a post that I wrap myself around and give a giant hug too. I’ve been known to give it a little smooch as well. I really do love this house.” We can relate. In fact, hugging, handling, smelling, and staring dreamily at wood is typical day-to-day around our mill and office.

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Our teams do love reclaimed wood!

“We wanted to use as much reclaimed wood as possible because it’s environmentally friendly and a healthier option for our family, but also just as important, we love the sustainability aspects of re-purposed wood,” Greg continued.

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img_4902wanut-floor_olsenWe learned that it would be common for Greg & Dee to have large gatherings and lots of cooks in the kitchen. Foot traffic would be heavy, but they live in a relaxed atmosphere, so shoes would be off. This type of living would be a good fit for Walnut as it is a softer hardwood. The rich coffee, purple, caramel, and tan toned wood flows throughout the main level of the home. “The Reclaimed Walnut floors are one of the best decisions that we made. We used a no VOC finish so they do require more care, but they are so beautiful that it’s totally worth it.” To balance out the darker floors, the custom NEWwoodworks cabinetry stays light.

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Reclaimed Walnut flooring meets American Prairie Taphouse siding and is joined by Reclaimed Maple/Beech furniture (crafted by NEWwoodworks).

The interior trim is Douglas fir which joins with American Prairie Taphouse reclaimed softwoods on the bedroom, entry, and stair walls. “We were initially concerned that with having too much wood, that decorative wood paneling on the interior walls could be overkill. Turns out the team at Pioneer Millworks suggested just the right amount and it ended up being the perfect complement to the interior of our home.”

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nww_stairs_web The custom stairs and railing were crafted by NEWwoodworks.

The stairs lead from the main level to a rec room, kid’s bedrooms, and an exercise room via Douglas fir and Walnut raisers and treads with a cable railing system.

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The lower level rec room includes an entertainment center crafted with Reclaimed Settlers' Plank Hardwoods and topped with Reclaimed Beech.

The lower level rec room includes an entertainment center crafted with Reclaimed Settlers’ Plank Hardwoods and topped with Reclaimed American Gothic hardwoods (crafted by NEWwoodworks).

The lower level features Reclaimed Teak, an incredibly durable species with rich, warm tones. “Choosing the reclaimed teak was an excellent decision for downstairs. We love the look and really appreciate how well it has stood up to heavy traffic from the kids, friends, and our gym.”

gamerm-teak-floor-rec-barn-siding-ceiling_web_sh“The rec room’s ‘as-found’ industrial salvaged timbers add a lot of fun and character to the space. Using them throughout the house would not meet our aesthetic desires, but in this room the timbers along with the reclaimed barn-wood on the ceiling definitely add to our house.”

olsen-reclaimed-softwoods-siding-pioneer-millworksWhen approaching the home it appears to have grown out of the land, to be part of the surrounding forest thanks in part to the exterior siding’s hard-earned natural tones. “Our favorite Pioneer Millworks element is the cladding on the exterior of the house. Perhaps more than any other feature, this multi-color, multi-textured wood sets the tone for the uniqueness of our home.”

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Homeowners Greg & Dee.

 

“One of our favorite things to do is wake up in the morning on a cold winter day and lean back and our chairs in front of the picture window and drink in the view with a nice warm blanket and a hot cup of coffee. If a mountain was able to give birth to a house, this would be the house.”

Thanks Greg, Dee, and family for letting us be part of your dream home!

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New Energy Works Timberframers (our sister company) designed Greg and Dee’s retreat home creating a layout with ample party space with unobstructed southern views of the Catamount and Butternut Mountains. They included screened and covered porches which blur the line between interior and exterior spaces. Their team enclosed the home with the high efficiency Matrix Wall System and SIP roof panels. This same group was also responsible for installing the American Prairie Reclaimed Siding. We work elbow to elbow with New Energy Works and are always thankful for how smoothly our combined projects go. Plus, they’re as wood obsessed as we are!

(If you’re interested in the whole story, Timber Home Living Magazine has followed this project from design to completion.)

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Meet the Team Featuring: Carolyn

Carolyn is one of our Reclaimed Wood Experts helping out folks in Colorado and Texas along with other Rockies and Southwest regions. She’s quick to smile and great with interiors. We asked her to share a bit more about herself:

carolyn-with-dogsWhere do you live/work from? What do you like about it?
I live in Colorado – part time in the city /part time in the mountains. I never get tired of the scenery here.

What’s your background with wood or reclaimed wood in particular?
I have been an Interior Designer and Artist for more than 20 years. I have a BFA in Interior Design and Architecture from U-Michigan. I’ve worked with lots of materials and have special affinity for wood. I’m also married to a custom home builder – one of the best perks, is having a direct customer line for our unique products!

You get to cover some neat territory. What is your role on our sales team?
Reclaimed Wood Expert for the Rocky Mountains and Southwest States. I focus on Colorado and Texas. It is pretty amazing to have a role that allows me to do things I love: focus on interior design, travel, meet new people, and have unique experiences, all thanks to a company with products I believe in.

What about wood, or reclaimed wood, appeals to you?
I love the characteristics and stories that reclaimed wood hold. It really feeds the artist in me to work with the variety of wood. The sustainability of giving these products new life, and new use, is so important.

We reclaim Foundry Maple from old factory buildings. Each batch is unique and full of character.

We reclaim Foundry Maple from old factory buildings. Each batch is unique and full of character.

Which product is your favorite? Why?
By far my favorite are our Foundry sourced reclaimed Maple.  Each of them is so specific, telling the story of a business or industry that supported a community with jobs, made a specific product, and is from a building with character and quality that you do not see very often these days.

carolyn-concertWhat are your hobbies outside of work?
Remodeling our home in the Colorado Mountains keeps me busy (and my husband, and our kids). Outside of that I focus my time with my family, though I’m also an avid reader.

What’s your favorite book?
Hard to pick a favorite – I have several:
–       “The unbearable Lightness of Being” Milan Kundera
–       “People of the Book” Geraldine Brooks

We’ve heard you talk about your puppies. Tell us more?
I have 2 dogs: (1) red tick healer mix named Posey (35 lbs), and (1) saint Bernard named Oscar (160 lbs). Despite the contrast in size Posey is the boss, Oscar is the cuddler/hugger. They’re best buds, wrestling, playing, and napping together all the time. (Scroll back up to see Carolyn’s faithful canines ‘posing’ (snuggling & hugging) with her.)

If you catch us at a trade show you're likely to see Carolyn's smile in person!

If you catch us at a trade show you’re likely to see Carolyn’s smile in person!

Share something quirky about yourself…
On occasion, I have exhibited extraordinary bowling skills!

I enjoy any adventure and one of my favorite adventures was a Wilderness Yoga camp trip, where we rode horses into a camp deep in the Troublesome Basin, Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest – horses, yoga, hiking, camp fires, gourmet camp food and some amazing women.

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I Love Chicago

Over the past few years, Chicago has become one of my favorite cities to travel to for Pioneer Millworks. Architecturally magnificent and with a vibrant mid-town area, Conde Naste Travler just ranked Chicago as the #2 city favorite for tourists.

South Michigan Ave Selfie

We do a lot of work with architects, designers, and builders based in the windy city on projects all across the country. But if there’s one thing I’ve found that’s nearly as awesome as the midwestern charm of Chicagoans, it has got to be the food. Fortunately for me (and my stomach) our reclaimed wood adorns plenty of the best new restaurants around town.

One Fifty One Kitchen & Bar opened just within the past couple of weeks out in Elmhurst, clad with our Patina Vat Stock on the front and trimmed with our American Prairie Gray. After a look at the menu, I can’t wait to get back there for dinner.

Reclaimed wood, inside and out – Its what we do.

Nando’s is a name familiar to those from the Mid-Atlantic, Chicago, and South Africa where the chain began back in the late 1980’s. I have to admit, I had lunch at a Nando’s twice last week. The chicken is just that good. And depending on the location you might see any number of our reclaimed wood materials in use. This location on Wabash uses our Black & Tan Oak in multiple areas, even some with painted planks for a vibrant accent.

A little paint on our reclaimed wood unifies it with other bright colors throughout the restaurant

River Roast has arguably the most awesome location, right on the Chicago River, with outdoor dining right next to the LaSalle St. bridge.

Outdoor heaters keep the patio warm at River Roast

We provided two different batches of our Foundry Maple for the logo walls in the restaurant. One is a unique sandblasted floor with a light yet warm tone, and the other is a replica of our first foundry maple batch, crafted by our finishing experts. You guess, I won’t tell you which one is which.

Foundry Maple in the main dining room

Foundry Maple behind the hostess stand

Before heading out of town, I swung by the new Starbucks up on Broadway, which was recently outfitted with Heart Pine salvaged from the Pullman Couch Factory right there in Chicago. This building became infamous in 2013 when the Chicago Fire Department battled a large fire there in sub-zero temps, earning the name “Fire & Ice Building” and documented in a previous post on our blog.

Three different depths of Antique Heart Pine which in its past life was charred and encased in ice

After 3 very full days it was time for the rails to lead me home. Passing through Union Station to board my train, a pair of Metra trains waited to shuttle commuters home to the suburbs just as they’ve done for decades. Chicago’s mass transit is unique in that there’s so much of it above ground, it becomes a great way to see the sights, and to make your way to a spectacular meal, hopefully surrounded by some of our beautiful reclaimed wood.

If you get a chance to ride the commuter rail in Chicago, go upstairs and sit in the “upper deck” for a better view.
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