Reusing Old Materials for Green Bath Design

For a unique and eco-friendly look, try using salvaged materials in your bathroom design: reclaimed wood, antique tiles and even old sinks.

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Hide CaptionShow CaptionA Stephen Staples vanity uses a salvaged Egyptian lattice door.
That rich color has been earned, as have the requisite nail holes and even wormholes, from the wood's previous incarnations. Its visible history appeals to many people, including Stephen Staples of Staples Cabinetmakers in Plainville, Mass. Staples started his furniture-making business in 1996 — for the second time. The first time, he says, he was "doing what was popular." This time, he started doing what he wanted, which was to use salvaged wood. He picked it up anywhere he could, he says, even "walking through the woods looking for old sheds."

Unlike others using reclaimed wood who mill it for various uses, Stephen retains much of the wood's original look. He's used an old screen door as the front of a cabinet and hammered the myriad nails back into two large planks of "roofing pine," not wood that people usually want to use again precisely because of its many nails. He'll also use it for doors on an armoire that will have a "medieval" look.

When Razan Brooker was extensively renovating her fourth home, an 1840 Italianate Victorian house, she turned to Stephen for some period-looking pieces. He made a two-shelf vanity for the master bath (big enough for the two modern sinks Razan placed on top) and side shelves, all of reclaimed wood. For the other bath, Stephen took an Egyptian lattice door supplied by Razan and used it on a vanity he made.

"He's incredibly precise and artistic. These are showcase pieces," she says. "The wood Steve chose for each one is exactly what the design called for, and I have not had one stain from water on my bathroom vanities. They look like they belong in this 300-year-old home."

Reclaimed wood can also be used to make bathroom floors, ceilings and walls. Stephen says it's fine to use it in this moisture-rich environment, but you should sterilize the wood by cleaning it with a good disinfectant first so mold has nothing to start growing on. And any reclaimed wood should be kiln-dried to get rid of any moisture (some wood is reclaimed from river bottoms) or dormant bugs.