How We Operate: Finding Beauty in the (Honesty of) Reclaimed Building Materials


In the collage above are just a SMALL SAMPLE of our favorite uses of reclaimed wood in moss projects (from top left): Bowling Alley BenchBegyle Tasting RoomBrewBar Pastoral2 Sparrows, and Erie Street Loft.  Keep reading to see why and how we seek to use reclaimed wood products as often as possible.

It is a truth pretty universally acknowledged that designers like REAL materials – we wince at the sight or suggestion of veneered stone walls, laminate surfaces and vinyl siding.  The concept of “Honesty of Materials” – using a particular material both for function and aesthetic at the same time, rather than covering one thing with another – is a favorite concept of modernist architects but by no means unique to them.  John Ruskin made the same point in his Seven Lamps of Architecture in 1849, this way:

“To cover brick with plaster, and this plaster with fresco, is perfectly legitimate… But to cover brick with cement, and to divide this cement with joints that it may look like stone, is to tell a falsehood; and is just as contemptible a procedure as the other is noble.”

To that end, few things are more noble than incorporating beautiful, minimally finished elements of solid wood into our designs.  We are particularly partial to sourcing reclaimed wood and we use it in nearly every application: flooring, shelving, counter tops, wall surfaces, furniture, and art pieces.

The fireplace surround at the Erie Street Loft is one of our most striking examples of finding beauty in the ordinary.  This wood was formerly a stack of weathered 2 x 4 wood.  We found it, where else, at Rebuilding Exchange, ripped each piece in half and mounted them  in a simple, slightly angled plane, against the wall: a focal point rescued from the scrap pile!

erie fireplace surround

Why Reclaimed Wood?

Wood is consistent yet variable, renewable and reusable, and one of our favorite materials to work with here at moss.  Wood grain delights the eye and the fingers with its sensory riches and adds warmth and interests to the otherwise sometimes-stark pallet of modernist materials.  Reclaimed wood also incorporates a sense of history into a design, giving a story to tell and keeping worthwhile material out of the landfill.

Working with any type of (responsibly harvested) wood can be considered a sustainable activity.  However,  the renewability of the resource in general does not mean that a piece of lumber harvested, prepared and transported from one end of the country (or planet) to another can’t compare with the sourcing of an existing piece of wood from near by and re-purposing it to keep it from a landfill or woodpile.  Our friends over at Rebuilding Exchange are in inspiration (as well as a source) in their constant work to pull re-useable materials out of the waste stream and back into people’s lives.  We share their value for finding new homes for

An Effect for Every Style and Season

The finished effect is as variable as are wood surfaces themselves.  The aesthetic can be stripped and functional (while beautiful) or polished and old-world (while also beautiful) as shown below:

Spare: Begyle Brewing Company Tasting Room


At Begyle the aesthetic was industrial and functional.  We used rough sawn wood (found on site) to create these gleaming merchandise display shelves that show a huge variation in grain color and texture.

Luxe: Bar Pastoral

bar pastoral counter

At Bar Pastoral there are several reclaimed wood elements but the most striking is the circular sawn antique oak bar surface (sourced from Viridian Reclaimed Wood).  In that context the highly polished bar surface is one component of a palimpsest of complimentary materials (many of them wood) which blend together to create a rich and relaxing atmosphere where patrons can delight their senses with more than just the cheese and wine.

So there you have it: from minimalist industrial to rich old world, wood runs the gamut.  We love it in nearly every context.  Where do you want us to feature it next?