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Burning Question: Is There Life Beyond Reclaimed Wood?

In a world of design clichés, is reclaimed wood the newest?

Among current restaurant-design clichés like subway tiles and Edison bulbs, there’s one that has almost become a parody of itself: walls covered in slats of old wood. Found at every hot new restaurant from Rich Table to Gioia Pizzeria, reclaimed wood is to a dining room what pork sugo is to a menu—inoffensive but ubiquitous. Is there any alternative?

Douglas Burnham (whose company, Envelope A+D, designed Locanda) says, “Reclaimed wood comes from a nice starting point—the green story behind it. But I would think about painting it with a super-chromatic color, so it’s the same sustainable material, but not this weather-beaten thing.” As for other overused elements, Burnham has wearied of penny tiles, which he used at the first two Pizzeria Delfinas. For the restaurant’s third location, he says, “we’re looking at how we can bring a mega-scale texture to the floor.”

Lauren Geremia, the designer behind Citizen’s Band and the Instagram offices, says, “The economy dip brought on this kind of DIY, but now the DIY look has turned into a serious craft.” (Those wood walls, in other words, might not be so cheap today.) “I’m also seeing a lot of high-end metalwork—copper and brass. And Heath Ceramics makes tiles that can give the effect of wallpaper.” But Geremia believes that the earthy, artisanal sensibility is probably here to stay. “It’s still about mid-century furniture, wood, concrete, and marble. I think people want things with staying power. But who knows—maybe the disco era will make a comeback.”

Originally published in the February 2013 issue of San Francisco Magazine

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