23 August 2019

A Few of Our Favorite Things


(Please note: We are not being paid, sponsored, or receiving any form of compensation in exchange for including the following items in this post.)

Reclaimed wood floor in a modern coastal home.
From time to time we like to share a few of our favorite products, materials, innovations, etc. that are tailor-made for contemporary modern and mid-century modern houses.

In this post, we’re celebrating a couple of incredibly cool and environmentally sustainable building materials. We’re also honoring an iconic mid-century modern dining table created specifically to eliminate the “slum of legs.” (Keep reading to find out what that means…)

Reclaimed wood wall/headboard
1. Reclaimed Wood: as green as it is gorgeous

Reclaimed wood is just what it sounds like: old lumber, originally used for one purpose, that’s been reclaimed for another purpose. Some advocates call it “antique wood.”

Reclaimed wood is salvaged from old, abandoned barns and sheds, shuttered factories and warehouses, razed houses, etc., built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Depending on the region in which it’s located, reclaimed lumber can be found in almost every type of wood: Cherry, Cypress, Longleaf Pine, Mango, White Oak, Walnut and Black Walnut, Mahogany, Pecan, Teak, and other exotic woods.

For architects and home builders, using reclaimed lumber helps a new structure achieve LEED green building certification because (1) it’s considered recycled content, (2) it meets the “materials and resources” criteria for LEED certification, and (3) some reclaimed lumber products are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, which satisfies LEED’s “certified wood” category.

Reclaimed wood is primarily used in residential settings also accent walls (exterior and interior), cabinetry, furniture, and, best of all (in our opinion), flooring -- beautiful, environmentally friendly flooring that’s rife with character.

Now, don’t make the tragic mistake of thinking “reclaimed” automatically means rustic and country. “Modern designers and architects increasingly turn to reclaimed wood and other components to lend a unique persona to modern homes – both for the exterior as well as for interior spaces,” Vera Dordick in her article “Reclaiming Wood for Today’s Modern Homes” for Homedit.com.

Overhead, a reclaimed wood ceiling
Reclaimed wood resources and specialists are available all over Florida. So before you make a wood flooring decision, do yourself and the trees a favor and consider beautiful, eco-friendly reclaimed wood.

Reclaimed floor and island base in soft gray finish
2. Raw Concrete: sustainable and sexy

Speaking of sustainable building materials, concrete is as good as it gets.

In its “raw” form, it’s so much more.

Raw concrete walls in an elegant bath
“Raw” concrete is concrete that’s left unfinished after it’s cast so that the marks imprinted on it by the form molds remain visible.

As a sustainable material, concrete is abundant, renewable, low maintenance, and durable. (It will pretty much last forever.) By its nature, it promotes passive energy conservation: In interior applications, it absorbs heat from the low winter sun then radiates that heat into the room when the sun goes down. In the summer, it holds cooler temperatures at night and remains cool the next day. This barrier between outside extremes and interior comfort reduces operational HVAC energy usage by an estimated 29 percent, maybe even more.

Of course, concrete wasn’t always an option in the home building industry. Commercial and industrial, yes, but not residential.

In the early years of his illustrious career, Le Corbusier, the Swiss-French architect who helped found the Modern Architecture movement, worked as a draftsman for Auguste Perret, the first architect to use reinforced concrete in residential construction. In 1914, Le Corbusier enlisted the help of engineer Max Dubois to determine a variety of uses for what he called béton brut, which means “raw concrete” in French. And with Corbu’s stamp of approval, other modernist architects began to consider it.

Actually, béton brut denotes an architectural expression of concrete rather than the robust material itself.  

Raw concrete wall in a bedroom
Other than in garages and basements, concrete isn’t visible in most houses. The foundations may be made of concrete block, but they’re covered with brick or stucco veneers. (The veneer-over-concrete-block approach to foundations was Frank Lloyd Wright’s idea. He also invented the concrete slab on which many mid-century houses were built. Both concepts were intended to reduce the cost of architect-designed houses.)

For a breezeway, raw concrete walls and ceiling
For several years now, however, many modernist architects and their residential clients have embraced the intrinsic beauty and authenticity of exposed, unfinished concrete in various applications, including walls within ultra-elegant modern spaces. The rugged texture of raw concrete is dramatically juxtaposed with lots of sparkling glass. The result is exciting and, yes, downright sexy.

The Saarinen Tulip Table vs. the “Slum of Legs”

Marble-topped oval Saarinen table from Knoll
Finnish architect Eero Saarinen (1910-1961), who designed the St. Louis Gateway Arch among many other well-known structures, was pummeled with praise for the modernist furniture he designed for Knoll. Among them: the popular Tulip Table. It was part of his Pedestal Collection of the late 1950s.

A white engineered-granite top
According to Knoll, Saarinen vowed to eliminate the “slum of legs – the ugly, confusing, unrestful world” -- underneath chairs and tables with four legs.” His pedestal dining tables were the answer since the tops are supported by one shapely post in the center.

Saarinen’s tables have been widely copied and reproduced, but authentic Saarinen tables were manufactured then and now by Knoll Associates, which Florence Knoll founded in 1948. From Knoll, they are 28-1/4 inches tall and the tops range in size from 35-3/4-inches round to 96 inches oval. The bases are made of heavy molded aluminum painted black or white. The tops are available in a variety of marbles, woods, granites, and laminate.

Vintage Tulip Tables are available. But so are a plethora of cheap, badly made knock-offs. If you’d like to bring a vintage Saarinen table into your home (and who wouldn’t?), know the characteristics of the authentic version, especially since the 1950s versions are selling for thousands. Pamela Wiggins’ article “How to identify a genuine Saarinen Table” (The Spruce.com) will give you all the information you need to make a confident purchase. Or save yourself the angst and buy a new one from Knoll!

A Tulip Table with a black base and gleaming wood top