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Marianne and Jon grew up in Norwegian ski country not far from Oslo, and had long dreamed of owning a seter—a simple farm cabin. They found an old timber cabin set in the midst of a forest, in an off-the-grid place with no road or running water. It was rundown. Working with architect Benedicte Sund–Mathisen, who is Marianne’s sister, they fixed up the cabin, extended it, and added some necessary amenities.
The look, though, remains appropriately rustic. Kitchen cabinets and shelving are made from reclaimed barnwood bought from a farm further north. The leather pulls were made from a vintage sled harness. Walls and counters are concrete. Vintage touches include industrial signal wall lights and a brass backsplash behind the cooktop, treated with acid for an aged look.
How It Happens
1. EARLY PREPARATION
American reclaimer Jesse Benedict dismantles antique barns to preserve them or reclaim their lumber. Each piece is carefully labeled. Benedict says reclaimed wood from barns works well in any rustic setting. For kitchens, he selects only sturdy, tight-grained boards to use in face frames and door stiles and rails; drawer fronts and panels, held in place, may be made of lesser boards. He chooses boards with character: wide grain patterns, deeply weathered grooves, knots, and even holes from nails or pitchforks.
When a barn is disassembled, boards are de-nailed on site with the help of a metal detector. Wood is sprayed with boric acid to rid it of bugs and mold, then kiln-dried to a 9-10% moisture content, not lower.
2. CONSTRUCTION POINTS
Cabinets in the Norwegian cabin include a combination of base units and open shelves. Thick, 1.5–2" barnwood was used for the shelving—dried, sanded, and finished with the original unmilled edge. Floorboards with heavy patina from old haymows and threshing floors work best for open shelves. Lower base cabinets were made from a solid wood ¾" box, then faced with ¾" barnwood that was back-planed to the same thickness as the doors and drawers. Cabinets are usually finished with flush inset doors and drawers for a vintage look, but full overlays can also be built. Cabinets are screwed together, not nailed, for sturdiness.
3. FINISHES & CARE
Putting a finish on barnwood isn’t easy. Polyurethane on any surface that has weathered grey will turn an unpleasant black color. A low-VOC, two-part conversion varnish here was floated onto the surface, then baked into the wood before cabinet construction, creating a crystal-clear finish that preserves the natural, silvery grey of the weathered wood. Recommended cleaning is with diluted mild soap and water, avoiding oils and most modern formulations.
The Scandinavian Home
The kitchen project is from Niki Brantmark, creator of the award-winning interior design blog My Scandinavian Home, which is inspired by her life in Malmö, Sweden. Originally from London, Brantmark is the author of The Scandinavian Home (CICO Books, 2017) as well as Lagom: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life, and her first book, Modern Pastoral.
Brantmark’s books cover both classic and more eclectic modern homes and interiors in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. Light, weather, nature, wood—these drive design in Scandinavia. The Scandinavian Home shows urban examples from minimalist to Bohemian, country houses filled with color and textiles, and rustic homes. Her book Lagom (“not too much, not too little”), a thoughtful discourse on the Swedish lifestyle, offers home tips for “minimalist mindfulness.”
Reclaimed Wood Resources
Private salvage companies, eBay, even Home Depot are carrying reclaimed barnwood. Here are some specialists: