Buying wooden furniture? consider eco-friendly reclaimed wood

Buying wooden furniture? consider eco-friendly reclaimed wood

Furniture made from reclaimed wood is warm, characterful and has a history behind it. And while it's associated with the rustic country look, reclaimed timber works well in contemporary interiors too because it can soften hard materials such as glass or stainless steel

By Abby Trow

Knightsbridge reclaimed oak extendable table table with wax finish from Brighton-based Modish Living . Table costs £1549 and measures L200182xW1001xH76cms. Modish Living works with a team of local cabinetmakers to make furniture in a variety of styles using predominantly pine and oak reclaimed from barns, warehouses, factories and private houses in the UK

Buying furniture made from reclaimed timber is one of the easiest ways to be green because you are, in effect, saving trees from having to be felled.

And it's great that more design-led reclaimed wood furniture companies are launching because it's estimated that in the UK alone, some 3,000 tonnes of wood that is eminently recyclable has been ending up in landfill or being incinerated. 

But of course, just because a table is made from reclaimed wood doesn't mean you're going to like it, which is where companies such as Modish Living, Rough Living and Eat Sleep Live come in, because they put good design at the heart of their work.

And for those who love to upcycle, using reclaimed wood is the only way to go. Old wooden pallets and crates are a good source of wood that's easy to work with and you'll find lots of ideas on how to upcycle them in this article from designrulz.

It's got to look good

Hellen Barlow, who founded Brighton-based Modish Living with her husband Chris, says they want to offer furniture that is timeless and stylish, as well as robust, environmentally-friendly, and in dimensions customers want.

'Our furniture is designed to work in country cottages or modern apartments. The wood we source is between 50 and 200 years old and it has a wonderful patina. We like to give it a natural wax finish, but we're working on a new Norwegian-style collection that has the white limewash finish, which is proving popular among our city dwelling customers.'

Splendid Roman reclaimed oak table from Rough Living, £1680
Reiner bookshelf on castors, ideal if move flats a lot. Made from reclaimed hardwood and old metal pipes, £490 at Little Tree Furniture
Substantial reclaimed oak dining table from Mobius Living, from £1,250,
It's easy to learn how to upcycled with old wooden pallets
Hudson mirror, reclaimed timber frame, from £180 at
Whitewash finish to the Nordic-style coffee table from Modish LIving
Reiner sideboard made in India from reclaimed hardwoods from offices and factories, £595,

Barlow says it's great that we're all starting to consider the materials used to make products and that designers are applying their skills to recycled or reclaimed materials.

'And there is a lot of reclaimed timber available in the UK, in Europe and of course in Indonesia, so it really does make sense to use it. Britian has plenty of pine which is reclaimed from barns, warehouses, houses, factories, and some oak, so those are the woods we're concentrating on.

'And at Modish Living, we want to keep things local so we are using reclaimed timber sourced ideally in Sussex, but otherwise from the UK. It's very satisfying to take old planks or beams and transform them into lovely pieces of furniture that should last for generations.'

Jemma Paterson, product development manager at Mobius Living says people are increasingly wanting that warm, aged look of reclaimed wood. 'I'm not sure people are necessarily choosing our products because the wood we use is reclaimed, they buy from us because they like the look of the wood...the old nail holes, the cracks, the grooves.. and the style of our furniture.

'But the point is that wood is being reclaimed and reused, which is good for the environment.'  Mobius Living (find its products at sources pine from the UK and oak from France, as well as teak from Indonesia.

Mobius Living demonstrates that reclaimed wooden furniture doesn't have to be chunky, but can look refined and elegant, especially when it's combined with recyclable metal frames.

Rough Living's Dan Spendlove also combines reclaimed timber (from his local Hertfordshire area where possible) with metal for very attractive contemporary designs that appeal to urbanites who haven't set foot in a wood for years.


Bespoke table by Bristol based Rhys Gillard for a renovated watermill in Glos.Table made from old oak and elm beams taken out during renovation.
Coastal mirror made from old port decking, L120xW80xD4cms, £229 from
Monastery headboard, £750 and bedside table, £399,
Mild coffee table, L150xD66xH40cms, £260, reclaimed wood and steel frame by Dan Spendlove
Stanley square reclaimed oak and steel coffee table by Pacha Design, from £1,200
Bespoke breakfast bar made from reclaimed planks by Dan Spendlove
Mild table, reclaimed wood and steel table and stools by Dan Spendlove. Table L175xW75xH75cms, £675.
Reclaimed oak and steel coffee table, £1500, Pacha Design
Sideboard in reclaimed wood, various sizes, from £795, by Eastburn Country Furniture.
Waste Waste fauteuil,  4450 euros, by Piet Hein Eek.
As with Modish Living, Spendlove sources wood mainly from the construction industry, heritage modernisation sites and various reclamation dealers around the UK.
'We work with both soft and hardwoods ranging from reclaimed scaffold boards through to antique pine floorboards and rough cut oak beams. It is far more labour intensive to achieve the desired final result than buying new timber but the benefit of the processes involved is that we can detail the timber in our own way creating a finish that's unique to Rough Living.'
Spendlove says his business was motivated by eco considerations 'and sustainable design was  preached heavily during my design degree course many years ago...In terms of aesthetics, after the clean, ultra-modern period of design seen during the mid-noughties, I've felt there's been a growing interest over the past four-five years in textured, natural materials..and nothing is more textured and natural than worn reclaimed timber.'
You might have come across the Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek, who's done a huge amount over the past 20 years to open the eyes of the design world to the potential of making furniture from reclaimed and waste timber.  He says it's not just that environmentally it's a good material to use, but there's a beauty in wood that has been used that isn't present in the brand new stuff, so to speak.
Neil Buckley Jensen of Little Tree Furniture would agree, and his company has an impressive range of furniture in a wide range of styles made from reclaimed Indian hardwoods. He travels extensively in the subcontinent to source woods to make pieces that have character, patina and history, whether the wood has come from a former factory or from disused boats. And he too loves not only to design attractive furniture but gets great satisfaction from making good use of what would otherwise become a waste material.
Simple low 3+2 reclaimed oak coffee table by West Country-based Pacha Design, £595.
Reclaimed oak and Cornish slate table lamp by Pacha Design, £195
Alabaster pale Aegis 150-year-old pine planks from Victorian Woodworks' Amphora collection. From £65m2.
Reclaimed FSC Indonesian teak storage cubes from Raft, from £142.
Condo collection from Halo Living is made from reclaimed sassafras wood from Chinese junks. Table from £1485.
Chest made from antique timbers in a reclaimed pine frame, L135xD48.5xH90.5cm.
Brooklyn industrial 60cm square coffee table, £295, made from old boat timbers, from Alexander & Pearl.

All over the country you find designer-makers incorporating reclaimed wood into their products, even if they don't work exclusively in it. For modern furniture, see Pacha Design run by Glenn Rushbrooke and Samantha Robb. They're on the border of North Cornwall and Devon and like to use wood reclaimed from the West Country where possible, as well as other local materials including slate. You can buy their furniture at

And Halo Living offers its Condo collection of contemporary reclaimed wood and stainless steel tables and room dividers which use sassafras wood from disused Chinese junk boats. 

For beautiful classic contemporary reclaimed teak furniture, Raft is the place to go. The company, the world's largest supplier of FSC recycled timber, uses only FSC-certified reclaimed teak and it has FSC Chain of Custody Accreditation.

Bristol's Rhys Gillard makes bespoke pieces of furniture for clients and he recently made a magnificent eight-seat table for a family using oak and elm planks removed from the watermill they were restoring in Gloucestershire. What you might call closed loop recycling and upcycling.
West Yorkshire-based Eastburn Country Furniture is another company that uses reclaimed and new wood from sustainable sources. It has an excellent range of traditional and country style sideboards and dressers, some of which are given a distressed paint finish. 
For furniture that's quirky, eclectic and most definitely made from recycled wood, see the work of Sustainable Woodwork, furniture makers in South Wales. They uses a mix of woods and piece have an interesting mix n match quality.
Recycled wood floors
And let's not forget reclaimed timber for flooring. Ted Todd offers planks in a variety of woods, including oak and pine, that have been sourced from buildings around Europe and which are around 150 years old. The pale Aegis pine is perfect if you're after a Scandinavian look, prices from £65m2.
Look too at reclamation companies such as Viking Reclamation, which has a comprehensive range of reclaimed flooring.