The importance and relevance of the three R’s — reduce, reuse and recycle — cannot be stressed enough today. It is imperative we find new ways and means to follow the principle, and one way to do so would be to think twice before we purchase newly manufactured, conventional materials for the construction of our homes.
We need to look at whether atleast a few of these materials can be replaced with recycled and/or salvaged ones. One such readily available material is reclaimed wood sourced from shipping cartons. Typically used for packaging, it is transported via sea/road, and given the long journey, it is already seasoned (i:e durable and waterproof). Such wood is discarded after use and can be sourced from local dealers near harbours. Once cleaned and polished, it can be used for home interiors.
Salvaged wood provides an authentic, weathered aesthetic that lends a rustic charm indoors. Most of the wood is available as planks of typical widths which can be used as ledges and shelves supported directly off the wall.
They make for a great alternative to plywood or other boards to fabricate kitchen cabinets and/or wardrobe door shutters. Another option is to use them with spacers atop seating surfaces or small tables. A variety of thin paint or polish colours can be used to accentuate the look further.
If you want to develop deeper textures and bring out the wood’s natural grains, char the surface of the wood using fire. Most salvaged wood available today is pine wood and a flame torch can be used to gently char the surface. Natural oils and stains can be added to such finishes to seal and enhance the textures. This technique (also called Shou Sugi Ban ), originated in Japan in the 18th century and was used as a method to preserve wood. The wood was then coated with natural oil, leading to a scorched finish. This method was used to make the wood resistant to pests, rot, fire and even water.
In a recent interior design project in Chennai, salvaged wooden planks have been used in a multitude of combinations. Each space or room is conceived in a different style in terms of variations in colours, textures and patterns. Closed shelves and drawers are augmented with stylised open ledges and niches. The handles for the shutters have also been created out of the same wood.
With many avenues for experimentation and imagination, salvaged wood is truly an inspiring material to work with, combining aesthetics with the much needed environmental sensitivity in today’s context.
The author is the founder of Green Evolution, a sustainable architecture firm