Months ago, Lily and I went on a delightful and kid-less adventure to a nearby salvage yard. They reclaim wood and metal from tear downs and sell and remake old items into something new again. Visiting the yard, like an antique shop or flea market, excites like a buried treasure hunt and serves as invigorating exercise for the imagination.
The show room highlighted floors from such products as wind-fallen maple and used walls from grain elevators. I plunked my credit card down on 1218 square feet of reclaimed Douglas fir shiplap, pocked with nail holes, with an ambiguous delivery plan. It felt rebellious and invigorating to have a green spin on replacing my water-damaged flooring.
I had only seen the product on the showroom floor, and while luxuriously wandering through the yard after taking care of the business of paying for the floors, I saw the pile of what I had purchased. I’m not going to lie, my heart sank: Apparently I had just purchased something barely acceptable for the fireplace?
The guy who unloaded it into my living room to acclimate thought so too. My otherwise delightful contractor quickly decided the same and stated, “I’m not installing that crap.”
While I could understand why he might feel that way, I wanted someone who understood the vision. Not wanting to convince a skeptic, I hired a craftsman who has been finishing and installing these floors for some time. He understood the beauty only time could impart to the wood, the patina that you can’t just create in a day, and the stories the nail holes could display. He said something that really struck me and had me thinking: when and why did floors need to become cabinet-quality and blemish-free? Homes used to be dirt floors or maybe simple wood. You walk on them, spill on them, live on them. Think of what they must endure! Then why do we freak out when they get inevitable scratches in them?
The first time I saw them in my house, they weren’t nailed down and the floor person wanted me to give him feedback. It was a jolt to adjust from our old light bamboo flooring. Did I marry a brunette when I only had a thing for blondes? I wandered from room to room and looked at every board. Some I thought were too rustic and would be turned over to the lighter side. Most weren’t and many of them were so unique, individually stunning, and intriguing. I began to feel like I was perusing a gallery, considering a piece of art with each slat. I would look at a board and think it was my favorite and then find another board that boasted even better blemishes and marks and then that one would become my favorite. A blemish, it turns out, is a floorboards’ best feature.
I love my new old floors. They are rustic, unique, and practical. They fit my taste and lifestyle. If I get a nick in them, it will only add to the charm. My favorite part, however, is that they were given new life and diverted from the dump. After all, not buying new is often the greenest thing of all!