Bed Stuy Brownstone Gets “Wabi-Sabi” With Reclaimed Wood

Photo via Nelson Hancock


    A client approached the team at Madera with a wish: He had grown up with a unique herringbone floor, and he wanted to re-create it in his four-story brownstone in Bed Stuy.

    James Robb, co-owner of Madera, provider of sustainable wood flooring and wood products for the building industry since 2013, knew that reclaimed wood was the wise choice, for these three reasons:

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    1. It’s got wabi-sabi: “It has what the Japanese call ‘wabi’ — that worn elegance and imperfection that you can’t re-create through a new product,” he said. “But we also didn’t want something so rustic that it looked like a barn.”

    2. It’s about…forgiveness: No matter the choice, reclaimed wood is more forgiving, and won’t suffer from the same amount of seasonal contraction — when cold winters rob a room of humidity, new wood shrinks and gets damaged. “Reclaimed wood has done a lot of its expansion and contraction already,” said Robb.

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    3. Keeps wood out of landfill: Madera sources their reclaimed material from places like old tobacco barns and warehouses in the Carolinas, a bourbon distillery in Kentucky, and the Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg. “Iconic places with history,” explained Robb. “But more important, it saves the wood from the scrap heap.”

    So it was settled: wine tank material, sourced from the Pleasant Valley Winery in the Finger Lakes region of New York (yes, the wood did smell like wine).

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    Before the contractors took up the old linoleum floors in the brownstone, the Madera crew came in for a consult, alongside Reggie Young of Brooklyn Lime Work, to select the right product for the site conditions —- an algorithm influenced by the presence of concrete slabs, or radiant heating, among other things, as well as the owner’s aesthetic.

    “These can make the difference between choosing a wide-plank barn oak or heart pine, with clean interior face or original dirty face,” said Robb.

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    Madera got wind of the Bed Stuy project from Young, a conservation consultant and project manager who spends much of his time researching and teaching green preservation and conservation techniques. “He incorporates sustainable technologies into as many of his projects as possible,” said Robb.

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    And in Brooklyn, for the last five years, those projects have been on the upswing. “We’re able to provide Brooklyn residents with wood floor options without having to go to a fancy showroom in Manhattan,” he said, adding that the market has been “gangbusters” for the past several years.

    “We’re all craving authenticity,” he said, “and reclaimed wood gives us a genuine connection to real materials, to our heritage.”

    For more information call (718) 484-7260 Ext.2, or go to the Madera website.

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