Today I was on site at a job that is under demolition as the contractor gets the old brownstone ready for an interior facelift. The building is well over 100 years old and there are hints of stories everywhere you look. We found bits of old newspapers, an ancient cigarette pack (sans health warning labels) and a few patches of old silk wallpaper over several layers of crumbling paint and plaster. Everywhere gas lines snake, now offering just a lingering threat of explosion where once they would have provided fuel for the house lighting. Further evidence of ‘modernization’ is provided where the shaft of the old dumb waiter has been filled in with what was once the latest in plumbing conveniences (now rusted and leaking). One of my favorite finds is the hidden doorway between adjacent buildings which allowed craftsman to develop whole rows of houses at once.
Not all the old stories are good ones, in this case we were meeting to review damage to floor framing, charred in some long ago fire. As we balanced precariously on the exposed joists we wondered what had caused the fire, and when, and we marveled at how the house had continued to stand for so long with its very bones half crumbled away. As we planned how to make the old building sound again I felt good knowing we would not only repair the building, but also that the old joists would be reincarnated in some beautiful furniture.
Braude Pankiewicz Architects have designed a number of beautiful, simple furniture pieces that highlight the beauty and history of the wood salvaged from old brownstone demolitions. The natural edges of the bench are retained to highlight the original beauty of the wood, which is offset by the bold and simple lines of the blackened steel support. It feels great to find ways to reuse the materials from our job-sites. And I’m hoping to have a joist table of my own some day soon… you’ll know I do if you start to see photos of food being served on a reclaimed wood dining table here on innBrooklyn.