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  • Reclaimed Douglas Fir Round-Up

    Posted on September 28, 2011 by Jennifer

    Everyone knows that wisdom comes with age—but sometimes, beauty does too. When it comes to choosing building materials, many homeowners, interior designers and architects are now turning to reclaimed Douglas fir when they want to create a unique look that can’t be duplicated with new materials.

    Reclaimed Douglas Fir beams.

    Using reclaimed Douglas fir is good for the environment—rather than clogging a landfill with old boards, when old buildings are dismantled, the usable materials can be given new life in a new home. And while environmental concerns play into the decision to use reclaimed materials, that’s not the entire story. Designers are choosing reclaimed Douglas fir because its unique blend of durability and beauty only improves with age. Creative designers across North America are featuring reclaimed Douglas fir in new and innovative ways.

    In Lake Tahoe, architect Dennis E. Zirbel found that reclaimed Douglas fir was the perfect choice for the interior of a remodeled cabin. According the Tahoe Daily Tribune, the interior of the home previously incorporated modern styling that didn’t match the home’s vintage wooden exterior. By using natural materials like granite and Douglas fir, Zirbel brought back a rustic mountain feeling with the re-model. The home’s gorgeous vaulted ceiling with exposed beams and rafters is made entirely of reclaimed Douglas fir. Wainscoting and built-in cabinets also feature the weathered material. By using reclaimed wood, with the patina that has built up from years of use, designers can create a cozy, vintage feeling instantly.

    In Berkeley, reclaimed Douglas fir provides warmth and history to a new, top-of-the-line concert venue. The Freight and Salvage organization, a folk music institution born in the 1960s, is known for its history of performances in gritty urban warehouses. The new project, a performance hall built on the site of two auto repair shops, successfully marries that gritty feel with the latest in acoustic technology, largely by its use of reclaimed Douglas fir from the garages.

    ArchDaily reports that the salvaged Douglas fir was repurposed as wall slats for the auditorium and lobby of the new venue. The old boards were adapted to enhance the acoustics of the space, while their weathered patina fits in perfectly with the Freight and Salvage’s tradition of informal, blue-collar settings. The dramatic floor-to-ceiling lines of the Douglas fir wall slats give a feeling of warmth and authenticity to the new, tripled-capacity performance hall that brand-new materials would not impart.

    The rustic, weathered look isn’t the only design possibility for reclaimed Douglas fir, though, as architect Omer Arbel shows in his 23.2 house, a striking modern home outside Vancouver, Canada.

    In Arbel’s creation, Douglas fir beams reclaimed from burned-down warehouses were the inspiration for the house. The huge beams, up to 65 feet long and 35 inches deep, were of different lengths and cross-sectional dimensions. According to Arbel’s website, the design team decided to treat the beams as “sacred artifacts”—he didn’t want to manipulate them or finish them in any way. To accommodate the mismatched dimensions of the Douglas fir beams, Arbel created a triangular roof system that melts into the sloping landscape surrounding the house.

    The 23.2 house features a mixture of materials and angles. Steel columns, huge glass windows and doors, and warm-toned Douglas fir coupled with the angular structure make for a stunning home with a distinctly contemporary feel, a stark contrast to the rustic Tahoe cabin and the urban Freight and Salvage performance hall. The 23.2 house was recently featured in the design publication Inhabitat and was on the short list for the 2011 World Architecture Festival’s recognized homes.

    And for a smaller reclaimed Douglas fir project that can only be described as whimsical, look to a high-end treehouse in Southampton, N.Y. The Lake Nest Treehouse, designed by Roderick Romero of Romero Studios. Featured on parenting website Babble.com, the Lake Nest treehouse features large, rugged Douglas fir doors, perfect for giving children the sense that they are opening a door to another realm. The vines and driftwood nestled around the 100-percent reclaimed Douglas fir structure enhance the nest-like look of the project.

    No matter what feeling you want to create your building project, beautiful Douglas fir flooring, paneling and beams are an investment that will stand the test of time in your home—and perhaps one day in someone else’s home as well.

    - Jennifer Rouse

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring, Douglas Fir Trim, Douglas Fir Paneling and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir paneling, reclaimed douglas fir

  • Using Douglas Fir for Your Baseboards: A how-to guide

    Posted on September 2, 2011 by Jennifer

    In the simplest sense, baseboards have a humble function: they’re strips of wood attached to the bottom of the wall, wide enough to cover up the little gap at the edges of your flooring.

    But beautiful Douglas fir baseboards can go beyond their utilitarian function to be a key design element, providing a visual marker that offsets both the walls and floors. They can set the tone for a room—a more formal home might have baseboards with an elaborately curved profile, while a modern home might have simple, straight baseboards.

    Choosing your style
    The size of your room: Although a standard height for baseboards is in the range of 3 ½ to 4 inches, a room with high ceilings can handle a wider baseboard, extending up to 10 inches up from the floor. AltruFir sells clear vertical grain Douglas fir trim in a variety of sizes, from 2- or 3-inch wide baseboards to dramatic 10-inch baseboards that make an eye-catching addition to a room.

    1x10 CVG Douglas Fir Trim

    The stain or finish you want: Douglas fir baseboards accept paint or stain equally well, so consider whether you want wood tones or a more vibrant color. If you want to highlight the natural grain of the wood, consider a clear vertical grain baseboard. If you plan to paint over it in the end anyway, a lower grade board might be fine for the job.

    Ordering baseboards
    Once you’ve selected your moulding, it’s time to figure out how much you need. At AltruFir, we sell trim by the lineal foot, which is simply the measurement of how long each board is. To figure out how many lineal feet you need, measure the length of each wall and add up the total. Order that amount plus a little bit extra—5-10 percent greater than the total. That’s just in case of mistakes, which can happen to even the handiest of home renovators.

    When you’re ordering, you can buy your trim in an assorted package called “random lengths.” With random lengths, you get a mixed batch of boards of different lengths that all add up to a pre-agreed-upon amount of lineal feet. One of our random lengths packages will give you 25 lineal feet of board, made up of boards that are between 6 and 12 feet long. Or, you can order by the piece, specifying how many boards you want and of which length.

    Getting started
    Once you have your baseboards, sand, stain or paint them first, before installing. It’s much easier to sand and stain each piece pre-install. That way you don’t have to stoop down to floor level to do the work, and you don’t have to worry about slopping paint or stain onto the walls and floors. You can go back and touch up your work afterward if necessary.

    Before you start nailing the boards to the wall, find out where the studs are. A stud is a supportive vertical board behind the sheetrock—when you start installing the baseboards, you’ll want to anchor them into those hidden studs. A simple tool called a stud finder, available at hardware stores for $10-20, will help with the process. In most standard construction, studs are located about every 16 inches along the wall.

    Start with the longest wall, and measure to find out exactly how long a piece of trim you need. Measure your board to the appropriate length and cut it to fit. When you make your cut, use a miter saw to make a diagonal 45-degree cut on either end of the piece, then nail it in place at the stud locations all along the length of the wall.

    When doing your nailing, you want to sink the nails down into the surface of the trim. This ensures that the nails get all the way through the baseboard, sheetrock, and into the stud behind them. It also allows you to fill in the nail holes with wood putty and sand over them for a smoother final finish. You can buy or rent a nail gun for the job, which will shoot them down into your trim, or you can do it the old-fashioned way using a hammer and a nail set. A nail set is a small piece of metal that looks something like an ice pick—you put the pointed end of the nail set onto the head of the nail, then hit the blunt end with a hammer, driving the nail all the way down into the wood.

    Joint work
    When you’re ready to fit the next piece of trim, take a small scrap piece of wood, cut a 45-degree angle in it, and test it to see whether or not it fits snugly against the first piece. A lot of corners aren’t exactly 90 degrees, so you may have to adjust the angle on your saw up and down a bit, testing until you find the angle that gives you a snug mating piece. Then keep your saw at that angle while you cut the next piece of trim. Nail the next board in place, and continue the process all the way around the room.

    If you have an extremely long wall, longer than any of the pieces you ordered, you may need to use two pieces of wood, making what’s called a scarf joint. Cut a 45-degree angle at the end of your trim piece, angling away from the face of the board, toward the back. Then repeat the angle-testing process that you used on the corners to get a tight fit for the scarf joint. Use a fine layer of wood glue on one of the surfaces when attaching the two ends, then fasten in place with nails.

    If you come to a door casing, a built-in cabinet, or another flat surface on the edge of the wall, you can use what’s called a butt joint—simply make a flat 90-degree cut on the end of your trim piece and run it straight up against the other piece of wood.

    The final touch
    Once every piece is in place, cover nail holes with wood putty, let it dry, and sand for a smooth finish. Using a small brush, touch up the nail holes and any other problem areas.

    When you’re all done, your Douglas fir baseboards will be a beautiful accent to the rest of your room—the finishing touch that ties your walls and flooring together. Just because baseboards have the humble job of covering a gap doesn’t mean they can’t look good while they’re doing it.

    - Jennifer Rouse

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Trim, Care & Maintenance and was tagged with douglas fir trim, wood trim, baseboards

  • Douglas Fir in California Building Design

    Posted on July 28, 2011 by Jennifer

    Los Angeles is America’s city of dreams—the sun-drenched town where hopeful folks go to make their dreams come true. And the city is known for homes that reflect that California dream—from elaborate Hollywood mansions to simple suburban ranches, much of California architecture is about taking the best of the state’s natural beauty and bringing it into the home.

    The Kaufmann House in Palm Springs makes great use of Douglas fir paneling.

    For decades, home designers have turned to Douglas fir—naturally beautiful and native to the West Coast—as a key element in creating those California dream homes.


    Many of the earliest structures in Southern California reflected the influence of Spanish settlements, making use of stone and adobe. However, in the early 20th Century, the Arts and Crafts movement swept the country, and L.A.’s residents were not immune to its charms. As the name suggests, Arts and Crafts-style homes reflect a love of quality, hand-crafted elements. Wood paneling, built-in cabinets, and use of natural materials like stone and wood are key features.

    One of L.A.’s most notable Arts and Crafts homes, the Gamble House, was built in 1908 for wealthy residents David and Mary Gamble of the Procter and Gamble Company. Douglas fir is one of several types of wood used for the exposed beams, window and door frames, and other intricately-crafted woodworking that fills the interior of the home, known as one of the “twelve great man-made wonders of L.A. county.”

    A 1917 issue of “House Beautiful” magazine includes an article on native building materials of the Pacific coast, calling Douglas fir “a wood destined for extensive building uses in this country” and mentions that it holds “exceptional possibilities for paneling.” The Historic Highlands area of Pasadena, Calif., which was built from the turn of the century to 1925, is another area where surviving examples of Douglas fir’s use in the Craftsman/Bungalow area can be seen.

    However, as 20th century continued, Los Angeles homes evolved, and architects began using Douglas fir in new ways. Beginning as early as the 1930s and continuing through the 1960s, a simpler, sleeker style of architecture began to arise—known as mid-century modern, or as California modern. Characterized by simplicity and integration with nature, architects such as Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler and Gregory Ain epitomized the California style.

    douglas fir trim and siding

    Skyrose Chapel has 10 miles of Douglas fir trim and siding.

    Douglas fir continued to be important to mid-century modern architects, as a building material that was both natural and widely available for west coast homes. Many mid-century modern architects were very conscious of designing homes that were accessible to anyone—using readily available materials and designs that were easy to build.

    The Crestwood Hills area of L.A., for instance, was developed in the late 1940s as a neighborhood of modern homes to meet the needs of the post-World War II baby boom families. According to a 2010 article in Westside Today magazine, the houses of Crestwood Hills “set a standard for excellence in postwar tract-home development.” They used simple materials like concrete block, Douglas fir, and plate glass. “With thoughtful planning and the use of level changes, the original structures housed a post-war family quite comfortably. Large areas of glass in the walls and sliding doors dissolve the boundary between house and garden,” architect Cory Buckner writes.

    Richard Neutra, a noted modernist architect, was another designer who experimented with creating simple homes out of affordable materials like Douglas fir. His 1936 “Plywood House” built out of Douglas fir plywood was designed as part of a competition at the California House and Garden Exhibition—it was meant to pay homage to his love of small but spacious homes and was finished inside and out with Douglas fir.

    The mid-century modern style did not necessarily mean the homes were utilitarian or not attractive, however. The Dorland House, designed by America’s most famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, in 1948, uses Douglas fir ceiling beams as one of the many features that set off the beauty of its setting in the Altadena foothills by deliberate use of organic materials that echo the surrounding natural beauty.

    Wright’s colleague Richard Schindler also chose Douglas fir for one of his most lovely homes, the Rodriguez house in Glendale. Vertical grain Douglas fir, Santa Maria stone, and slate are among the many natural materials showcased in the house.

    As the century has continued, California’s love of natural materials like Douglas fir has continued too. Once-lost historical gems like Richard Neutra’s classic of the modernist movement, the Kaufmann House in Palm Springs, which features Douglas fir ceilings, have been recently restored.

    In 1997, Douglas fir was used in the Skyrose Chapel of Whittier, Calif., one of several funeral chapels at Rose Hills Memorial Park. Skyrose Chapel features stunning exposed beams throughout, soaring ceilings, and more than 10 miles of trim and siding.

    And in 2010, the California Home & Design Award for residential interior design went to a Costa Mesa home that features Douglas fir doorways and ceiling beams, adding an earthy flair to an otherwise modern home.

    From craftsman to modern, simple to ornate, Douglas fir is an adaptable wood that’s well-suited to the California aesthetic: organic materials meeting natural beauty for more than a century of L.A. homes.

    - Jennifer Rouse

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Trim, History and Interest and was tagged with Douglas-fir, Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir trim, douglas fir paneling, douglas fir design, california design

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