Last Updated: February 22, 2023, by: Jamie Sandford
Recently Kate from Centsational Girl was kind enough to link to us on one of her weekly round-ups of interesting design stories – thanks Kate!
It certainly was a great selection of articles and in fact the first one, featuring a remodeled kitchen with an island unit made from reclaimed floorboards, inspired me to think about different ways to use old hardwood flooring on new projects. A few hours of Internet research later and I had discovered a whole world of incredibly great ideas for recycled wood flooring, from designer credenzas to simple kids’ toys!
Of course just about any kind of wooden object can be made from repurposed wood flooring, but there are two important factors that need to combine to really make something of beauty.
First you need to have some pretty decent woodworking skills. The better your skill the more “finished” a recycled wood project is going to look, and don’t be fooled: even those shabby-chic distressed wooden items require some fairly solid understanding of how to properly manipulate, glue and finish wood.
Secondly, you need the vision to see how your old floor timbers can be re-imagined. So, assuming you have the know-how and a pile of old wood flooring timbers that you don’t know what to do with, here is a round up of some of my favorite inspirational recycled wood projects to get your creative juices flowing. And if you don’t have any old wood and want to buy some here is a list of the best places to buy reclaimed wood flooring.
RECLAIMED HARDWOOD FOR CABINET REFACING/ CLADDING
Perhaps one of the most effective ways to recycle old wood flooring is by using it to reface or clad your kitchen or bathroom cabinets. Depending on how much reclaimed wood you use in your space you can create very different looks: if you want to go rustic then use repurposed wood flooring throughout, or use it on just one element of your space (like this kitchen island below) to create a more quirky, laid-back feel.
The type and nature of the old reclaimed wood will also dictate to certain degree what kind of overall style your room will have. This breakfast bar has been made with unfinished, paint distressed reclaimed floorboards and adds to the shabby-chic feel of the space; whilst the combination of old wood slats set on the diagonal with the metal frame on this kitchen island adds visual interest to an otherwise quite pared down design.
Reclaimed hardwood flooring doesn’t only have to clad cabinets. Many contemporary interior designers are using this unique material to clad feature walls. The key is to keep the cladding just to one focus wall of the space, using the most interesting pieces of wood to add texture. Wood clad walls can work with either rustic, minimalist or urban loft themes – it’s all about how you match the wood to the furnishings that makes the difference as the images below aptly demonstrate!
RECYCLED WOOD FURNITURE
With more of us realizing how precious the earth’s natural resources are it makes sense to see ways in which existing materials can be reused. Old wooden flooring, with its inherent lived-in feel, can be the perfect thing to use to make all kinds of furniture items which will have the added advantage of being totally unique.
Many of today’s cutting edge makers and designers are recognizing this and turning to recycled materials to produce seriously stunning pieces of furniture, like this amazing chair from Bellboy made from the reclaimed timbers of a New York City water tower.
For DIYers with average skills, making recycled wooden furniture as sleek as the chair above might be a bit of a challenge; however there’s plenty of clever more “rustic” finished recycled furniture out there to be inspired by. Have a look at the super cute timber cabinet and the rather elegant credenza dresser below – both very attractive pieces that work well in a cozy home environment.
For further inspiration, the impressive collection of furniture from All From Boats USA uses wood reclaimed from retired, traditional Indonesian fishing boats! (Yes, wood from a boat is not quite reclaimed hardwood flooring, but the principal is the same!)
And for even more amazingly inspirational wood furniture, have a look at the website Wood Design that features wonderful work in wood by independent furniture makers, artists, designers and architects.
RECLAIMED WOOD DECOR OBJECTS
Another way to go for reusing pieces of old hardwood flooring is to make home décor objects that can be functional as well as decorative. Australian designers Theory of Willow do just that, incorporating “colours, shapes and patterns into our homewares, which we feel compliment and accentuate the beautiful characteristics of recycled timbers”. I particularly like their Hexology and Tweedle-Dee Tweedle-Dum box shelves pictured below – both simple shapes, but elegantly rendered.
German designers Dielerei have a slightly different more shabby-chic take on recycling timbers, often using painted reclaimed boards to create eclectic pieces of furniture and homeware. And nothing is left to waste: their clever lampshade below is made from shards of reclaimed timber off cuts!
Other easily achievable projects are to use your old floorboards to make frames for mirrors or pictures; add hooks to a wide strip of board attached to the wall to hang coats on; create sturdy storage boxes which double as planters for the garden; and if you’re handy with a router make circular holes and divots on a strip of board for an instantly pleasing candle holder!
RECYCLED WOOD ARTWORK
A step up from home décor objects, using recycled wood to create artwork is a very satisfying endeavor: not only are you using found materials but the finished result will be entirely yours, there will be nothing else like it in the world!
And the good news is that creating art from reclaimed wood is a lot easier than you might think, as proven by the fantastic online tutorials offered by Becky at Beyond the Picket Fence. Becky’s passion, as she explains, is all about “hunting for junk that I can re-purpose, build with, or paint on” and whilst many of her projects tend to use discarded wooden pallets, the methods she uses can easily be adapted for reclaimed timber boards, like her charming Reclaimed Heart Art pictured below.
And if you’re handy with a jigsaw and router, then take a look at the very on-trend word art made by the team at Oh Dier. I love the personalized touch that these artworks bring to a home – however, as my skills are not that brilliant, I’ll be buying mine from the experts here as they are great value for money!
Finally, for the truly artistically gifted, be inspired by the wonderful work by LA artist Parvez Taj using photography and reclaimed Douglas Fur boards, this is one of my favorites called “Pusledge”. Simply beautiful!
MAKE TOYS FROM OLD WOOD
Last but not least, reclaimed timber is the perfect material for making simple toys for your kids! And as the team at “green” friendly website TreeLiving.com says: “wood off cuts are also ripe for recycling into toys that will last”. There are plenty of makers already using recycled wood for toys to help inspire you. Check out the fantastic eco-friendly, slickly finished painted wood toys from Manny and Simon – I love the bright colors and clever shapes of their train push toy below.
For a more rough and ready handmade feel, alongside his recycled wood furniture, the Italian artist-maker Arcangelo Favata has a fantastic ride-on wooden toy horse that cleverly opens up to reveal storage space for treasure and the horse’s back doubles up as a desk surface – see how here.
But if even this more simplistic level of woodworking is beyond you, don’t fear – there are still lots of basic wooden toys that you can make with very little carpentry know-how. For example, have a look at the very easy to make but very effective wood memory tiles project on the Make Baby Stuff website. By the way, the Make Baby Stuff is a really great resource for anyone looking for step-by-step instructions for hundreds of DIY craft projects!
So what are you waiting for?
This is just a taste of what you can find online to help inspire and teach you about ways to recycle timber flooring; there’s plenty more out there for you to investigate – enjoy!
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About the Author: Jamie Sandford
Jamie Sandford is the Owner and Chief Editor of Home Flooring Pros (find out more). After 12 years’ experience in screen and stage set construction, followed by a further 15 years working in the home renovation/remodeling business, he now writes and curates online home improvement advice.
“Buying and installing home flooring should be a fairly straightforward process, but often it isn’t. After more than 15 years experience in home flooring and remodeling, I started Home Flooring Pros in 2013 to help homeowners navigate the often-over complicated process of choosing, buying and installing a home floor. The aim is to save you time and money by helping you to make better floor buying decisions.”