December 03, 2021
Discover & Explore

Discover & Explore

If walls could talk

Reclaimed barn wood and other salvaged materials breathe history into homes across the area

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One of the more popular trends in home décor and interior design in recent years is a fusion of old and new – reclaimed wood.

Whether pulled from the teardowns of barns in the rural Midwest, discovered in the remnants of long forgotten rail lines, or collected from what remains of once glorious homes, these wooden planks, flooring and windows are being repurposed as decorative elements, finding new life as they bring old grace to the homes of present day.

They are like a story, these pieces. And for many who use them, it’s like bringing home the tale of where the wood once stood, the years it served, the trials it has endured.

Editor Sherri Dauskurdas and designer Carol Manderfield went out on the road to visit some of these purveyors of yesteryear, who aid in saving the wood, and windows and flooring of the Midwest for use in homes and furniture.

All American Reclaim
1095 Pingree Rd. Unit 106
Crystal Lake
(224) 209-8283

In a non-descript warehouse just off Rt. 31 is a storefront that looks more like a kitchy antique store than anything else. A small entryway flanked by vintage tin signs and an old radio flyer wagon welcome visitors as if it were a downtown general store, but no one just  “happens upon” this place. You have to know where you’re going to find it.

And past the small room filled with old Coke bottles and antique door hardware is a small pass-thru with an even small hand written sign: “barn wood this way”.

One step through that doorway and you remember why you drove to Crystal Lake in the first place. A vast warehouse of reclaimed architecture unfolds in front of you. Row upon row of towering planks of barn wood soar toward the ceiling. Painted and stripped, aged and weathered, pine and oak and pecan and cherry. And all ready for the taking. Down one aisle is an entire warehouse wall of nothing but reclaimed windows, most full glass, of every size and shape you can imagine.

The staff at All-American handles the job from start to finish, clearing barns and buildings that need to be taken down due to structural damage and safety concerns, salvaging what they can and bringing it back to sell. So they know the stories of from where the wood came, how it was originally used, and what you can expect from it.

On our visit, we discovered the rich wide-plank floorboards of old railcars, dark and worn smooth from age and use. We saw thick beams of pine, ready to be measured and trimmed for mantles and shelves. And tall boards that once sided a 19th century barn, weathered and stripped of color to a silvery hue, hints of its once classic red paint peeking through its age.

The folks at All-American can help point you in the right direction depending on your project, or you can take a personal journey through the space and peruse aisle after aisle, inspiring your own creativity. The back of the warehouse contains all the accompaniments you might need, from knobs and hardware to nails and springs, and many “found” objects left behind when the barns were claimed, the perfect complements to a home that embraces the nostalgia of an era gone by. They are on hand to make suggestions, help you find what you’re looking for, and even bring it to fruition.

Down the lot from the warehouse is the workshop, where craftsman tool their discovered wood into desks and bureaus and office floors for clients across northern Illinois. You can come into the shop and choose materials then meet with one an experienced carpenter to create your own piece of custom, reclaimed furniture.

The showroom is located in downtown Crystal Lake.
Visit or call (815) 900-1335
to set up an appointment.

If you’re less about the hunt, and more about the find, then Reclaimed is the spot for you.  At Reclaimed (also in Crystal Lake) you can go home not with great planks of barn wood and a brilliant idea, but rather with a finished piece of handmade, quality furniture built to function in your home or office, every day.  Custom dining tables, character-filled cabinets, and brilliant bars are crafted from some of the highest quality materials you’ll find, rescued and repurposed from the most unique of places.

Our favorite? A custom bar made from the lanes of a local bowling alley.

Reclaimed Wood Chicago
33W447 Roosevelt Rd, West Chicago
(630) 457-5048
2349 W Grand Ave, Chicago
(312) 972-7550

Reclaimed Wood Chicago carries a huge selection of old barn wood and vintage lumber, including beams & timbers, siding, and wide planks. Involved in every step of reclaiming wood for inventory, working with owners and demolition companies to salvage historic building materials. All wood is de-nailed, power washed, and kiln dried to prepare the wood for its new life. The inventory of salvaged wood always  is changing, and includes aged pieces in varying sizes, tones and textures. Hand hewn, weathered, circular saw marks, and oxidized nail holes are examples of the unique looks that can be found in the wood selection. Clients can purchase recycled raw materials or ask about our custom build and install services.

J. Hoffman Lumber Company
Showings by appointment only

This family operation has been reclaiming old growth lumber primarily from Midwestern buildings that have outlived their prime. Giving new life to old, our craftsmen create premium quality wood products ranging from timber trusses to wide plank flooring, paneling, and millwork. All orders are made to customer specifications and sizes. Reclaimed stock includes small to large timber beams and various sizes of dimensional lumber. This lumber is graded, de-nailed and stored in our facility ready to be sold “As Is” or processed further. Antique lumber is obtained from large mid 19th century warehouses, office buildings, and manufacturing facilities, as well as barns and grain mills.

Lake County Barnwood
36961 N Rt 83, Lake Villa

Lake County Barnwood, a longtime source of siding, corrugated metal, roofing and more, recently has opened a Lake County showroom, along Route 83, 1.5 miles south of Grand Ave. in Lake Villa.  The shop offers the DIY crowd access to vintage, reclaimed wood that has been collected from historic barns throughout the Midwest. The showroom also features selections of hand-crafted custom furnishings, unique gifts, and vintage decor.

Vintage Brick Salvage
2510 20th St., Rockford
Showroom open by appointment

If you’re looking not for wood, but for brick to complete your project, then explore the collection of salvaged local brick at Vintage Brick Salvage in Rockford.

Here, craftsmen cut thin brick tile from reclaimed antique brick, sourced from streets and buildings in Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee and beyond. The beauty of the natural clay these bricks are made from and the aging of these brick over time creates an authentic, time worn, look that is impossible to duplicate. These vintage brick pavers and building bricks have been expertly tooled into brick veneers, tiles perfect for creating a beautiful brick finish in your home. Full-sized salvaged brick also is available.

What We Make
207 Berg St., Algonquin
Monday - Friday 9:00-5:00PM
Saturdays by Appointment

If fine furniture pieces are what you seek in your reclaimed wood project, look no further than What We Make in Algonquin. Beautifully designed desks, tables, bookshelves and more are constructed from salvaged old growth from Midwestern barns, hand welded metal and lightweight, durable, special blend concrete. All furniture is completed with no or low VOC eco-friendly finishings, which remove most of the toxins traditional furniture brings into your home.  Sleek minimalistic design is the signature style at this shop, turn century-old materials into pieces that are fresh and modern, and a perfect complement to today’s home. Many pieces available for shipping in three days time.

The Rebuilding Exchange
1740W Webster Ave., Chicago

The Rebuilding Exchange is a non-profit social enterprise with the mission of creating a market for reclaimed building materials, by diverting materials from landfills and making them accessible for reuse through our retail warehouse, promoting sustainable deconstruction practices, and providing education and job training programs, and by creating innovative models for sustainable reuse.

Rebuilding Exchange carriers a large selection of reclaimed building materials including reclaimed old-growth and new-growth lumber, doors, cabinets, windows, lighting, plumbing fixtures and more.

Through contractor forums, educational seminars with local and public experts, as well as speaking engagements around the region, Rebuilding Exchange helps lead the national effort to educate on deconstruction and reuse. Rebuilding Exchange also offers over 100 hands-on public workshops per year to educate and empower on the many different ways to reuse materials.

Rebuilding Exchange supports innovation in reuse by donating materials to partner non-profit organizations working to rebuild their communities with reclaimed materials. RX also hosts design competitions to foster the innovative reuse of more challenging materials, and offers RX Made, an in-house furniture line made from local and salvaged materials. Each unique piece is crafted in an on-site workshop, which also serves as a training site for individuals participating in its job training program.