Can You Teach An Old Barn New Tricks?
Old barns just used to fall down and rot, or rot then fall down. Either way it was a waste. With a global eye to sustainability; Manotick's Atmosphere et Bois has jumped in to help you bring stunning reclaimed wood products to your next home build or renovation, and give old barns, barrels, wagon beds and more, a new life as refined decor.
Reclaimed, as well as newly emerging manufactured, wood products are now being used for everything from countertops to wall finishes, doors to cabinets and furniture to siding. A huge variety of sizes, shapes, textures, colours, finishes and patterns are a designers dream come true. We have been so proud to use Atmosphere et Bois products in many of our Just Basement and ARTium Design Build, high-design projects and National Award winners.
We asked JD Wieneche, General Manager of Atmosphere et Bois to answer a few questions about their incredible products that is finding its way into many Ottawa homes.
Q – How many years have you been in business?
A – Atmosphere & Bois as a business started in 2002 in Belgium by founder Philippe Auboyneau. Before the craze for reclaimed wood really began he saw lots of potential with re using the old barn board as a design feature for homes and businesses.
He Partnered with The Wood Source in Manotick, Ontario simply by researching companies that were already retailing the reclaimed products and from then he started importing large quantities into Europe.
After years of successful business we decided to open our or showroom in Ottawa in January, 2016. With that the company also brought lots of our beautiful European products to add to the existing Canadian reclaimed stock.
Q – How big is your showroom?
A – Our Showroom is 35’ x 60’ and is an original barn from Ancaster, Ontario built in the 1840’s and reassembled here in Manotick. Inside our showroom we have on display over 30 walls of different cladding/siding products we offer as well as flooring, furniture, hand hewn beams and much more.
Q – How many different types of barn board do you carry?
A – On top of all the walls in our showroom we have slide out panels and new material coming in all the time. I would say that there would be about 50 different kinds of material to choose from. Most products can be milled to a specific profile or altered in some way so that would add a fair amount of options.
When clients have not been here before and have an idea in their mind they are blown away by the amount of options they have and sometimes need to rethink their original idea as there is so much more to choose from.
We don’t only carry wood from barns we also get a lot of material from Europe such as French Oak from old wagon floors, Scaffolding board from Denmark, and wine barrel pieces for cladding. We also have a newer product called Ghostwood that comes from Montana which is clear cut from dead forests and has about a 7-9 step process to get the desired look.
Q – Where is most of your barn board from?
A – Most of the barn board material comes from Southern Ontario but now that reclaimed wood has become as popular as it has we are having to source a bit further to other provinces.
Q – What is the largest piece of barn board that you have had?
A – The largest piece of barn board I have had in our shop was a piece of hemlock threshing floor which was about 27” wide by 20’ long and 2” thick. That was one large board and it wasn’t for sale for too long. I think it sold within 2 days.
In our yard where we store most of our hand hewn timbers I have seen some extremely large beams. One being about 14”x14”x45’. How they got the piece up for a barn construction in the 1800’s is beyond me! The whole town and their horses would be needed for that.
Q – What questions does your sales/design team get asked the most?
A – A big question we get asked is why reclaimed wood is so expensive. A lot of people don’t realize the amount of work and time that goes into getting the material from a barn to our shelves. Our suppliers need to source the barn, compensate the owner and have a team delicately dismantle the barn with large machines keeping all the material intact and reusable. From there is gets sorted into exterior (grey), interior (brown), beams, rafters, roofer board, threshing board and more. Once it is all organized it then will need to be processed in terms of quality, throwing out boards that are rotted or too damaged. Once the processing is done it may need to go to a kiln to dry, get de nailed, and then sent to the mill which creates even more waste factor. This is a very quick description of everything that gets done and there are lots of in between costs.
We also get asked a lot if we will ever run out of barns. I don’t believe we will as long as villages like the Mennonites are still constructing barns the way they were originally. I do think that it will slow down quite a bit as the market is becoming a lot more saturated with people buying barns for resale.
Do we build custom pieces? Yes. When we first opened our Canadian location we were getting most of our furniture from our company in Europe and having custom pieces outsourced here in Ottawa. We were mainly selling material to contractors and other builders for their jobs but were getting asked a lot to do custom work. Our new shop manager, Zach, has been a huge help to making these things happen. He has been producing some really great pieces and clients are loving the end product so we have continued to take on more of those jobs as opposed to sourcing out.
Q – How do you help guide clients into what type of barn board they should choose?
A – We first ask clients what their application is and from there we can direct them towards products we think would work best. When they are looking for simple barn board my first questions are if they want grey, brown or something in between and if they need it milled or rough. From those few questions we can narrow down our large amount of options to a few that will tend to the clients project.
Q – Most of our clients use barn board on feature walls and bars, what are some key design trends that you are noticing?
A – I would say the same, that most is being used as feature walls but I find people are coming up with more original designs in terms of layout on the wall. We have had lots of requests to build some faux beams as well as people love the look of having the solid pieces in their house but is just too much in terms of renovation. The faux beam option adds great character and is very easy to install.
Thank you JD for sharing so much insightful information, as always it is an absolute pleasure to work with you and your team at Atmosphere et Bois.