Posts Tagged old growth

Complete remodel of Rousseau home – restoration, reuse and daylighting

Here is a journey for you – a tale of complete remodeling of the interior and exterior over 11 years, by Katrina Roussea. This home is featured in Sustainable Connections’ 2013 Imagine This! Home and Landscape Tour. Get your tickets today for 9 homes full of green building and landscaping inspiration!

rousseau remodel collage

“When my husband and I purchased the house 13 years ago, there were elements of the Victorian design from 1905 and a major Colonial Revival renovation in 1941. We were lucky to have photos so that we could see how the house looked over the years. Apparently the house was originally located on Chestnut St near the old St Josephs Hospital location and was moved to the current location in the mid 1980’s.  Because the house had been altered so much through the years we felt that we could do a “semi-historical” renovation.  We felt that we had the flexibility to use whatever historic features we wanted to and not be constrained by any particular historical period.’

‘We have so many great resources here in Bellingham and the Pacific NW.  I also did lots of research online. Over the last 13 years I have been to many older home open houses getting ideas and asking questions.  I have also taken and collected lots of photos that were really helpful when we started to design.  We were also careful to pick a contractor who would be open to re-using old house parts and who would get what we were trying to do.  Bellingham Bay Builders has gone above and beyond in that regard.’

‘We have lived in the house for 13 years, and the house did not seem to “flow.”  Our kitchen was chopped up, passageways were blocked.  Upstairs was one tiny bathroom and two large bedrooms (one was 22 feet long) with 2 closets and one tiny bedroom with no closet.’

‘Going into the remodel we had several priorities.  

  1. Reconfigure the floor plan without adding much additional square footage to make the house flow better.  We studied the “Not So Big House” books to achieve that.  
  2. Try and re-use everything that we could from the house.  
  3. Find historical architectural artifacts and re-use those where we could
  4. Make any new materials look original. 

‘We actually started the process 11 years ago.  Once a year I had Jim Gunsolus (of Craftsman Woodworking) take out a window and I then had it stripped at the Strip Shop in Ferndale. The Glass house Ferndale would restore the leaded glass. Gunsolus then restored the ropes and weights and re-did the trim using old fir that he got from The RE Store.  The effect was stunning and the cost about the same as if we had replaced the windows with new good quality wooden ones.  At about the same time we wanted to put in a gas fireplace, which we did after I found a 100 year old mantle piece that came out of a house in Texas.  The fun for me in these previous projects was that people thought these things were all original to the house.

‘In preparation for the current renovations, I have spent the last year looking for house parts and finding homes for the house parts that we were not going to use. The best items included:

  • 7 vintage doors, at Second Use in Seattle, that came from a house in the Queen Anne neighborhood.  I needed exactly 7 doors and there they were!  I then advertised the doors that I wasn’t going to use on Craigslist and a lady from Blaine who was restoring an old farmhouse was delighted to get them.  
  • A classic 3 panel door that was the exact size that we needed in the kitchen from The RE Store. We also found a nice glass doorknob and lever door set from The RE Store but we are re-using most of our old door hardware.  
  • A pair of antique leaded glass French doors from Second Use in Seattle
  • Vintage hemlock flooring from Earthwise in Seattle – some of the boards were 14 feet long from an old house in Wallingford.  
  • An antique newel post was scored from Skagit Salvage. Gunsolus was able to make a smaller one to match it upstairs.  You can’t tell which is old and which is new.

Surprises in the house included:

  • Historical memorabilia like a child’s homework project that was dated 1908 behind a cupboard. 
  • Stripping the built in cupboards revealed beautiful old growth fir beneath all of the layers of paint. 
  • We figured out how to re-use my favorite door as a pocket door. 
  • Structural beams that had to be added upstairs became a wonderful part of the house. 

The project also included a full replacement of the siding and bringing natural light into the home. Dylan Hicks of Bellingham Bay Builders shared more about the project.

“Designer Deborah Todd worked closely with John and Karina to conceive of the remodel and produced detailed permit drawings. Daylighting was a prime goal of the interior remodel, removing light-blocking interior partitions on the top floor.   New modern windows, multiple new skylights and a creative light plan will ensure a bright interior environment. We removed the three existing layers of siding, replaced windows that were beyond repair and weatherized the shell. We applied new exterior trim and siding to closely match the photo from 1927.”

Karina concluded, “I think my biggest piece of advice to anyone working on their old house is to figure out a way to stay true to your house, even if it means that you have to do things slowly.”

Posted in: RE Store Rockstar Project, Stories about contractors, Stories about people, Stories about stuff, You can do it yourself

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Picker professional Devin Champlin – luthier, musician and salvager

Our old friend Devin Champin, had a short and well-done video made about him. He shares how he builds guitars from reclaimed lumber. His work as a luthier and instrument repairman continues to gain notoriety. And if you haven’t ever seen him perform with one of his projects like the Gallus Brothers or any number of other projects around the NW, you are missing something.

Filmed and edited by Laura Going, Samantha Heim, and Lauren Stelling

Devin Champlin from Lauren Stelling on Vimeo.

Music by Devin Champlin

Posted in: RE Store Rockstar Project, Stories about people, Stories about stuff

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Outdoor Cinemas, Flying Beds & Funky Junk at NW Flower & Garden Show

Flower and Garden Show Booth CollageDid you ever ride on a flying bed made from old stair stringers and reclaimed fir posts at the NW Flower and Garden Show? If you didn’t get a chance to see it in person, we had a suspended day bed from which to watch the movie screen on the side of the “house” with salvaged beveled siding. Cabinet drawers arranged around the bed were filled with various bedding annuals and perennials. An outdoor kitchen sported one of the much acclaimed “Big Green Egg” hybrid grill/oven/smoker and a nice used cook top. Random reclaimed rummagings were used for planters and a vertical pallet garden filled out the vignette.

The Flower & Garden Show seminars are always a big highlight, bringing experts on a wide variety of experts on gardening, plants, garden design, food and more.  We proposed two seminars this year and were chosen as two of the 85 speakers from almost 250 proposals.

Thanks to everyone who came out to see us at the Flower and Garden Show this year – it is always great to meet new folks and catch up up with old friends! We had a great time designing and building this booth – this year’s theme was an “Outdoor Cinema” in line with the larger show’s theme of “Silver Screen – Take Root”.

Eberhard Eichner, our master of REvision Division furniture building in Bellingham talked about making the most of small urban gardening spaces outdoor furniture and demonstrated how to build a planter box, bench seat and arbor

Jason Darling, our Education and Marketing Coordinator, presented an inspiring slideshow with photos and videos of creative planters, fences and screens, pavers and patios, arbors, sculptural accents, water features and weird old unidentifiable things. Everything was made from reclaimed materials and he even did some good networking, soliciting artists for our 12th Annual Recycled Arts Show.

Thanks so much to our friends at Seattle Urban Farm Company for teaming up with us on our booth at the Flower & Garden Show – and to Sutter Home & Hearth for loaning us the “Big Green Egg” grill/smoker for the outdoor kitchen – and thanks to Sky nursery for loaning us some plants too.

Posted in: Green business, Stories about stuff, Transforming the building industry, You can do it yourself

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Striking Salvage Gold in Own Backyard – Notes from the Field

by Ryan DeSales, Seattle Field Crew Member

Working on The RE Store’s field crew is a lot like digging for buried treasure. It’s a dirty, dusty, splintery business, and it’s often done at a fever pitch. While we travel to many exotic locales in our never-ending quest for architectural gold, there’s nothing better than striking it rich in our very own backyard.

This September, we unearthed a treasure trove of vertical grain Douglas fir tongue-and-groove flooring just blocks away from our Ballard store location. It was buried deep under a musty layer of avocado green shag carpeting. Thankfully, the previous owner saw past the luxurious fad of that deep pile rug and didn’t bother to tack it down. This single visionary action left the fir beneath it in as good-as-it-gets condition. Eternally thankful, we set to work with our trusty Burke bars in hand (top left in image above).

Unlike today’s wood flooring, which is typically installed with the benefit of pneumatic nail guns, this stuff was done ye old-fashioned way. Imagine if you will, a carpenter setting each nail in each board by hand with a hammer. Every time we pull up a floor of this vintage we give thanks that we weren’t the ones who had to install it. However, removing fir flooring is no picnic either.

Flooring of this type is nailed through the tongue when installed, and it must be removed by prying at each nail from the tongue side. Fir is a soft wood that often becomes brittle with age, so special care must be taken to avoid breaking the tongue upon removal. Take it from someone who knows, breaking the tongue renders the piece unusable again as flooring. Listening to the sound that the board makes during removal is actually one of the best indicators of whether or not it will come out intact. The more screeching nail sounds the better.

After listening to the soothing sounds of the fir floor, we moved on to unearth a number of other treasures from the Ballard house, including: cast iron pedestal sinks, divided light windows, cedar fence boards, and even some Volkswagen Beetle windshields. While our mission is to salvage reusable building materials, we’re always on the hunt for re-purposeable treasures to bring to you, the RE Store supporter. This time around, we managed to dig up pieces of Ballard, which we hope have found new homes by now. The VW windshields, however, are still available as of this writing; please inquire at The RE Store in Seattle for more information.

And remember to give us a call to schedule a free pick up from your renovation or project!  More info here

Posted in: Notes From the Field, Stories about people, Stories about stuff

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Reclaimed Materials Testing, Dog Picnics and City Park Approval

85% correct
Mad scientist reuse master, Eberhard Eichner, has conducted secret tests on reclaimed materials. In the REvision Division’s lead-shielded underground testing facility, a chunk of reclaimed bleacher board with masonite veneer sat in a bucket of water for over 4 weeks. The mad scientist’s disfigured assistant occasionally took it out to bake it in the oven or place it in the freezer. The piece showed some obvious distress, but the masonite held on strongly and no splinters showed in the butt end.
[Note: Of the previous statements, 85 percent of the information is correct.]

It takes a village

Dog Park Bench and members of Grateful Dogs Off Lease Association

The materials testing was done as research for a public facility picnic bench, built by The RE Store’s REvision Division. Returning customers, Wolfgang & Angelika Schlager, got together with their pet owner club, Grateful Dogs Off Leash Association, to raise funds for a picnic table. The table was to be placed not in a private backyard, but as a communal gathering and resting place in the off-leash dog area for the small dogs section at Lake Padden Park in Bellingham. The group educating people to be responsible pet owners, providing waste bags at Lake Padden, Bloedel-Donovan, and Post Point parks.

To have it built, the dog-running neighbors collected the money to fund the bench through donations at pie socials, cookie bakes and such. Finally the table was done. The masonite faced solid fir bleacher board was used for the seats and underpinning with some gorgeous slabs of Local Source Forest Products cedar for the top. All got braced, screwed and double screwed, bolted, sealed, oiled and otherwise built to last. The table was hauled off by the Schlagers with confidence.

Its official

Dog Park Bench with canines

Two days later Eberhard received a call. One cannot just place a picnic table into a city park!  A parks and recreation department official had to inspect the item to not be some rinky-dinky, wobbly, fly-by-night affair.  Upon inspection by the proper authorities, it was found to be sound by the official from Bellingham City Parks and Recreation. “This thing will last you guys a long time,” was the quote. This is as official of a city approval as the unsuspecting dog owners were ever hoping for.

Dog pros and cons
The dogs had something to say as well. Raci, the Schlager’s Saint Bernard said (rough translation), “The benches make it much harder to poach food off the table, but it makes for a nice shady spot and another place to leave my mark.”

If you want your own picnic table or have other ideas for furniture, functional or decorative finish work, The REvision Division does custom work and project consultation. Our design master will spend a complimentary 15 minutes with you to discuss your project, suggesting materials and ideas to help you save money and make the most of your used building materials. Visit The RE Store in Bellingham on the first Saturday of each month between 11am and 3pm to discuss your project with Eberhard and the REvision Division.

Posted in: Stories about people, Stories about stuff, Things you never knew about The RE Store

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Gourmet locavores and reclaimed materials at The Willows Inn

The Willows Inn on Lummi Island has leapt into the national gourmet food limelight in the last 18 months, under the culinary guidance of Olympia born, 25-year old acclaimed chef Blaine Wetzel. A 2011 article in the New York Times, titled, “10 Restaurants Worth a Plane Ride”, placed the Willows Inn amongst the great gastronomic experiences to be found in New York, London, Barcelona, Singapore, and Sydney. Read more about it’s philosophy and remodel project with reclaimed and local materials below the video.

West Shore Hospitality, a group of Whatcom County and Lummi Island-based investors, took notice of The Willows Inn’s publicity, buying out former owner, Riley Starks, in the fall of 2011. This local investment group opted for a full remodel of the entire facility, restaurant and the on-site accommodations. Nettles Farm lies behind the Inn, still owned by Starks, and is leased by the new owners as a part of the haven for gourmet locavores, growing greens, vegetables and flowers within a stone’s throw of the kitchen. With the restaurant’s focus on locally-sourced food and farm-to-table approach, they applied those same principles to the contractors and artists involved in the project. Many of the tradesman and contributors to the project were sourced from the Lummi Island community, known for its artisans and craftsfolk.

The RE Store’s own Eberhard Eichner lives on Lummi Island and contributed furniture and decor to the project along with others woodworkers Alan Rosen, Tom Lutz. Other locals involved in the project included: Pier Bosma doing fireplace stone work, Houston Foust’s stone and concrete work, ceramics by Ria Nickerson, Mark Bergsma’s photography and digital artwork, and resident artist Ria Harboe. Almost all of The Willows’ staff are Lummi Island residents as well.

As a part of the remodel, they hired Carol Beecher with Boston’s Saltwater Consulting, to be the “designer helping the Willow’s transform itself” for the remodel. Carol is a long-time fan of reclaimed materials, natural materials and old stuff. She wanted the interior of the a 102-year-old Inn to mirror its natural settings. She lobbied successfully for the restoration of the original fir flooring and brought out the original character hidden beneath the many layers of paint.

Carol saw Eberhard’s furniture in The RE Store and was compelled to get him involved. “The RE Store is my favorite place. That is where I always look for cool, funky things. I saw some furniture that Eberhard had done and I said, ‘I’ve got to reach out to this guy. He’s got what is in my mind and he can make it happen.”

The RE Store installed a set of sliding double doors between the main dining room and Blaine’s kitchen, a single sliding door unit made from cabinet doors that can partition off the private dining room, and a side table made from salvaged lumber and glass.

And so The Willows was renewed: the remodel was completed, the geoducks were dug, the local fish were caught, the farm out back produced prolifically, wildcrafted ingredients were harvested from the native forests, and the table was set.

For a truly local, gastronomically incredible experience, contact The Willows and leave behind your previously conceived notions of eating local.

Posted in: Green business, RE Store Rockstar Project, Stories about contractors, Stories about people, Stories about stuff, Transforming the building industry, Video posts

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Forest Salvage plus Local Milling equals Sustainable Finish Lumber

wood grain closeup

Vertical grained old growth cedar from Local Source Forest Products

The RE Store asks the folks at Local Source Forest Products, Inc. how they can make the claim to be creating sustainably harvested, locally processed old growth wood products. Old spring board stumps and felled tree remnants from 100-year old historic logging operations are being turned into premium finish grade material in their Whatcom County facility. The Local Source team removes the millable wood via helicopter to minimize on-the-ground impact to the forest. Literally tons of material are left behind to support the natural decomposition, soil renewal and habitat functions of fallen trees.

Take a tour with Simon, Loren and Ken to see the portable saw mill, repurposed shipping container wood kiln and finish shop.

Loren Tracy, co-owner in TD Wood Recovery as well as Local Source, talked about the source of their wood.

“There is a forest of stumps out there that were logged 80-100 years ago. What our partners specialize in is creating high value products out of those remnants of historic logging operations. We can’t cut any living trees. We are just taking out the useful material that is otherwise left to rot on the hillsides. It hasn’t (rotted) for a hundred years and it is still sitting there. It is still a large volume of material that is sound and is amazingly beautiful and very hard to come by unless you are in other reaches of Northern America where you can cut down live old growth. It is unfortunate that is still happening.”

Simon Petree, owner of Greenleaf Forest Products and co-owner of Local Source, detailed the origins of their focus on salvage logging and why the various partners came together.

“I started out working for a logging land clearing company. We would go to the logging jobs and grind all the logging debris. The mills don’t want “oversized” stuff (trees). They are set up for smaller stuff so I’ve seen lots of oversized logs that could be turned into good finished product, being ground up and sent off.”

“So I bought my first saw mill in the late 90’s just kind of for fun. Then in 2002 it actually turned into a full time deal where started going around and ran a portable saw mill business. I also would sell lumber off of the jobs that I was working on. A lot of my clientele was saying, “Where can I get this wood dried that you just milled. Where can I get it processed?” There was nobody locally that could do that so we got this shop going to do that and also to process the salvaged woods that Ken and Lauren have been doing for years and years.”

Simon continues, “Another one of our motivations for this shop was to keep things in the county. Our wood doesn’t typically travel more than the tri-county area. Its just great. Its all going back to the county where it came from.”

The RE Store is now carrying flooring, trim, quarter round, dimensional lumber, door trim packages and more. All products are sustainably harvested (salvage logged), locally milled and truly worth a trip to come and see the fine quality of this wood.

Posted in: Green business, Stories about people, Stories about stuff, Transforming the building industry, Video posts

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The Tombstone Project: reclaimed lumber, wavy glass and wabi sabi

Buffet cabinet made from salvaged lumber

The “Wells Fargo Buffet”

They just don’t build it like they used to, unless they work at Smith & Vallee Woodworks and Gallery. The talented and hardworking quartet has transformed an old barn into a state of the art shop, using lumber and windows salvaged out of the remodel to create their Tombstone Project cabinet and furniture collection. The only new materials in this new collection are the fasteners and hardware. All of the wood and glass comes from the former interior of the converted outbuilding.Their tandem gallery opening reception occurs in tandem with the grand opening of the new shop this Saturday, July 9th from 5-8pm.

Antique Cabinet in Cedar with upper cabinet made from reclaimed windows

“Antique Cabinet in Cedar” with upper cabinet made from reclaimed barn windows

The collection includes classic work like the “Wells Fargo Buffet.” The antique mall inside the transformed barn had an old-style Wells Fargo painted sign, from which individual reclaimed fir lumber was repurposed into this beautiful 3-door buffet.

The “Antique Cabinet in Cedar” features original windows from the barn. Click on the photo to enlarge it and you can see the original wavy glass panes from the building, raised in the 1880’s. Andrew Vallee repaired the old windows as a part of the cabinet’s creation and calls it, “a modern piece made with old wood in an old style.”

Dining Table made from recycled fir lumber

Smith & Vallee’s “Recycled Fir Table”

The “Recycled Fir Table With Antique Nail Holes” is made from vertical grain fir, with a very clean design. Andrew says, “We like to create a pattern with the old black nail holes, giving it a nice wabi sabi look.”

The genius of this holistic project is every exciting to us at The RE Store, as we have just kicked off our own new-upcycled-materials furniture collection in April of this year, through the REvision Division. The Smith & Vallee team has been building their beautiful and affordable furniture for years so go see their latest work at the gallery opening reception and wood shop grand opening this Saturday, the 9th from 5-9pm. The collection will be viewable at their gallery through July 31st, Wednesday – Sunday, 11am – 5pm.

Upright jewelry case made from reclaimed barn windows

“Old Window Jewelry Case made from salvaged Tombstone barn windows”

Read our previous blog post about the Tombstone Project’s barn, converted into a state of the art wood shop.

Posted in: Green business, Stories about contractors, Stories about people, Stories about stuff, Transforming the building industry

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The Tombstone Project: Salvaged materials, barn restoration and green building

Front of Smith and Vallee's Tombstone barn

The barn front of the Tombstone project

Smith & Vallee Gallery is launching one of their most unique design projects and furniture collections, “The Tombstone Project”, opening on the same evening as their new Woodshop Grand Opening, July 9th, from 5-8pm in Edison. These well-established Northwest artisans of green-built finish work have put their skills to work in creating their state-of-the-art woodshop, literally a stone’s throw from their gallery in Edison, a creative hub in Skagit County. The new collection of furniture is built from materials salvaged from the shop’s former interior.

Since 1997, Smith & Vallee Woodworks, Inc. has been designing and building furniture and cabinetry from reclaimed lumber and sustainably harvested forest products. Their work has been installed into homes and businesses throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Their creative designs fill the Whatcom Museum’s Family Interactive Gallery and their 2002 exhibit at the Museum titled “The Tree Project” had to be seen to be fully appreciated.


Previous inside of Tombstone barn with antique mall

Previous interior of Tombstone barn with antique mall

Their latest endeavor has been the transformation of a barn in Edison, Washington into their state-of-the-art shop. The 1880’s-built structure had previously housed an antique mall. The mall had small rooms with old-west building facades built from sturdy old reclaimed lumber. They salvaged out the entire interior of the barn, then framed and finished what they refer to as a “building within a building.”

When asked why they spent the last year taking on such a huge project, rather than just finding a ready-to-go shop space, co-owner Andrew Vallee had a lot of good reasons.

Finished woodshop inside the Tombstone barn

Finished woodshop inside Smith & Vallee's Tombstone barn

“It had everything to do with the location. We were looking to relocate the shop from Deming. This was a more centralized location for NW Washington. The footprint was just about right. It is across the street from our gallery that has been working really well as a venue to sell other people’s work as well as our own. The gallery houses my attached residence and Wes (Smith) was wiling to relocate to Edison. We are really enjoying the Edison community and it made good business sense.”

The shop has an abundance of green-built features. A lot of the original buildings reclaimed wood went into fixing the ancient siding and trim on the restored barn.  Super insulated walls, high-efficiency infrared heating panels and new highly-insulated windows make for very efficient space heating.  The wood floor is made from repurposed wooden utility poles from a company in Ferndale. Smith & Vallee had the poles milled into flooring and kiln-dried.


Tombstone cabinet with attached upper and wavy glass doors

Newly built Tombstone cabinet with attached upper and wavy glass doors

So why “The Tombstone Project?” They have repurposed lumber from the barn’s interior, upcycling it into their latest collection of furniture, titled “The Tombstone project”, named after the original painted “Tombstone” sign on the barn door.  And like all of their work, the craftsmanship is premium, while keeping prices affordable.

If you haven’t been to Edison lately or at all, here is your chance. Go to the opening on July 9th from 5-8pm. See the new woodshop. Enjoy the gallery. Get there earlier and check out the Lucky Dumpster as well. Just the kind of place to find your own treasures to transform.

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Shoji Salvage – Screens From Reclaimed Fir Beams

Designer/Builder: Jacki DeVincent

Project Title: Shakti Shoji Screens

Salvage Materials: All of the wood elements

Project Description from Jackie: We were able to make a group of 8 Shoji doors for a couple in Greenlake out of Reclaimed Fir from The RE Store in Seattle.  There was this group of  6″ x 12″ Fir beams that had been hanging in a parking garage, mostly to hold conduit.  They’d been painted and were pretty aged when we got them, but the grain looked tight.   It turned out to be perhaps the finest Fir I have ever seen.    Beautiful VG Fir was lying below,  with grain too fine to count rings without magnification.  It was dry, straight, stable and wonderfully light – perfect for Shoji screens.

I still have some material from these beams and use it on other smaller projects when I can.  I am delighted that something this special and precious could be brought to light again and appreciated for the beauty in function that it brings.  Whenever someone wonders about the quality that can be found in recycled lumber, I pull out one of these pieces.  Places like The RE Store make this possible.

Posted in: RE Store Rockstar Project

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