The Insider: Second-hand wood in the home


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The Independent Online

It adds warmth, texture, history and a link to the outside world… a home simply can't have too much wood. Especially second-hand – which gives you multiples of the above, as well as an eco glow.

I'm craving a parquet wall, mid-centuryish teak panelling and a kitchen table that looks more loved, which all feature in Reclaiming Style (£19.99, Ryland Peters & Small), an inspiring interiors book by architectural salvage/design company, Retrouvius. I asked the company's Maria Speake what you need to know when using second-hand wood in the home…

That's the way it is

"Reclaimed timber used in its original condition and form will allow more spatially adventurous decisions," says Speake. "Cutting it destroys patina."

Pest practice

"Timber can be cheap for a number of reasons: beware woodworm, rot, termites and ask how it has been stored." (Moisture breeds many such issues.)

Parquet life

"Reclaimed parquet is fabulous. It can also be cheap, from £5 a square metre, but get a builder's quote before buying, as it will need cleaning and laying by hand."

Don't be a hard-breaker

"Cherish tropical hardwoods. The ongoing life of a material is a key ecological consideration for us: what might happen to it after you move on?"


As a natural material, timber is susceptible to moisture and temperature changes and will change accordingly: acclimatise it before use.

Past lives

Know your wood's history. Timber from industrial buildings risks being oil-stained and unsuitable for internal re-use – although we have used pine boards stained by circular cheese marks to good effect; the smell soon vacates with a good airing!"

Find Kate's blog on affordable interiors at