a reclaimed journey

TLB 1A Reclaimed Journey – Building Our Home With Recycled Materials

By Emory Ann Kurysh

When the idea to build our home first came to light, the goal was to make it look like a heritage barn conversion, primarily built from reclaimed materials. The benefits in doing so were vast and varied, not the least of which involved embracing our own creativity and challenging ourselves in the implementation of the design ideas.

Part of our motivation was driven by the knowledge that salvaging building materials cuts down on landfill waste and is environmentally impactful. Another factor is that the cost of recycled materials generally runs much lower than their newer counterparts, and reclaimed materials instantly add a sense of character that can’t easily be accomplished in new constructions. 

Ours was not a journey of how a completely recycled home came to be, but rather a lesson learned on the reality of using secondhand building materials.

The Big Picture

In planning our home, the most dominant design feature was to make use of reclaimed barn wood siding. But early into our build this became apparently difficult.

The first issue we ran into was that the lengths of the reclaimed boards were not long enough to run either horizontally or vertically without showing significant breaks. The second issue lay within the condition of the wood itself. It was extremely weathered, which was our initial draw to it, but would require significant work to prevent further deterioration to use it on the exterior of the home. The fear being that over time it would be exposed to issues such as accelerated rot, infestation and warping.

So we had to create a new strategy to get us the look we envisioned, but with a new durable material.

The decision was reached to use untreated rough-cut pine in place of the barn wood. Although it wasn’t originally in the plan and budget, this decision turned out to be the most aesthetically pleasing and soundest option.

Taking it Inside

The theme of recycled wood continued within the interior of the home. The handrail for the staircase was also to be constructed of barn wood. All of the balusters, guardrails, and posts were to be fabricated from pine, running horizontally. When we installed the staircase, we learned that it is against building code standards as the guardrail was deemed to be ‘climbable’. So yet another major design plan was discarded. The solution involved raw materials in the form of large, rough-cut beams and rebar. Again, this major alteration increased the budget. However, it provided a more stable handrail that was wholly unique and justly fitting for the overall look.

The ceiling was the third and final compromise in the use of reclaimed materials. The plan was for recycled metal roofing to be hung instead of drywall to reinforce the heritage barn concept. It would have saved on time, future maintenance and cost.

After conducting an extensive and unsuccessful search for a large quantity of reclaimed metal, the idea was scrapped.

It turned out this was for the best. Research later revealed that a metal ceiling would more than likely have created poor acoustics and could have affected resale value. It was ultimately the contractor’s suggestion to install a tongue and groove ceiling. A pine ceiling would not only be a quicker install than drywall, the wood would add strength and would be visually much more appealing.

Vintage Lighting

To stay true to the original design we were able to source vintage lighting for the exterior of the home. Five large, gooseneck, gas station lights were purchased from an online retail store dedicated to selling refurbished lighting. We found this to be more fitting than using modern fixtures. We liked that they would be unique to the home and that it would cut down on landfill waste.

Repurposing the Reclaimed

Rather than being used for its intended purpose, the barn wood that was gathered was eventually used in numerous projects around the home. The majority of the wood was repurposed for various storage solutions.

The reclaimed fir and other recycled wood was cut down and hung in every closet and pantry, and in the bathroom and bedroom as shelving. Various pieces of furniture were constructed out of the antique pine and fir. Two dog beds were custom-made from old pallets and casters. In some rooms, long pieces of shiplap were used as the trim.

The Journey

As first-time homebuilders, we understood going into this project that many of the design plans would either be modified in some way or altogether scrapped. Rather than using mostly reclaimed materials on the exterior and within the house, the end result was an amalgamation of new and raw materials.

We found the best impact in using recycled materials came from using these materials within the interior decoration of the home. Having these details within every room unquestionably added the character we were looking for in our new construction.

We achieved our one-of-a-kind heritage barn-inspired home by blending new with wonderful reclaimed and recycled materials which allowed for a quicker build, and a more solid house. While we learned a number of lessons along the way, the challenge we presented ourselves with at the onset of the project pushed us to look at every aspect of the building process to see how we could make an environmental impact.

TLB 2To read the article in its entirety, or to see more from the summer issue of Saskatoon HOME Magazine, please click here.



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an essential guide to tiny homes

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 10.48.00 PMHello, friends and hello, Wednesday! As some of you perceptive folks may have already noticed, I often quote other literature that either pertains to or directly inspires a specific blog post. I just cannot help it. As human beings, we naturally create comparisons in our mind in order to comprehend, well, everything basically. That’s how we function. Us creative types take it one step further. Not only do we compare other work that we like to our own, but we are basically just recycling what we have seen and are adapting it and calling it ours. Some are really good at this (Marcel Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q., or various works from Banksy, or how Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir inspired the whole Impressionist art movement), while others are blatantly ripping off others (for instance, the lawsuits against musical artists like Johnny Cash, The Beatles, and Coldplay). However, I do not see anything wrong with this, as long as we give credit where credit is due. If not, then it is plagiarism. This is how we become inspired and how we keep on pushing ourselves to grow creatively, through seeing, hearing, or reading these influential pieces. If we always keep the bar higher than the level that we are at now, there is no telling how far we will go. Am I right?

That said, the reason behind that big rant of an introduction is that this week I will be posting an article from Saskatoon HOME Magazine. However, it is one that I wrote! It is my most recent and highest paying freelance job thus far, and I could not be more excited than I am right now to share it with you. What is it on? Small houses of course, what else would I be experienced enough to write about?

Oh Little Green, you keep on guiding us even after we have left your four sheltered walls. You are like a wise Buddha as well as a comforting Mother. I wish that all life lessons are just as clear, and just as enjoyable as each one that you have taught us.


5“Tiny Homes: An Essential Guide”

The average house in North America has increased by nearly 1000 square feet since the 1970s. Yet over the last decade there has been a shift in some segments of the population towards the building of much smaller houses. It is called, appropriately, the Tiny House Movement. This movement is founded in the belief that a tiny house of 300 square feet can offer just as many life perks as one 3000 square feet or more. They grant the homeowner power of homeownership at a more affordable price point minimizing the feeling of being “house poor”, while also lending to a potentially greener lifestyle.

If you are the proud owner of a tiny home, here are some essential tips to help you make the most out of your space.

Look To The Walls

When your house has a lack of floor space, make use of its wall space. Now is the time to get creative with storage units. Make use of long and narrow shelving, pieces with multiple cubbyholes, and wooden crates of all sizes. Hang your electronics. Use flat surfaces on top of your furniture and appliances. Jamming in crafting or reclaiming items to fit the unique needs of your home is more often than not the best solution.

Why Swing When You Can Slide?

Do not hold onto the idea of interior swinging doors when sliding doors are the better option. They will free up several square feet of much needed floor space. If you build your home, choose sliding doors that are installed directly into the wall. If this is not a possibility, then purchase an inexpensive barn door kit. Either option is more attractive and distinctive than traditional swinging doors.

Let There Be Light

It is imperative for every room to feel as light and airy as possible. Windows naturally illuminate an area while good quality windows can save homeowners hundreds of dollars a year on electricity and heating bills. Lighter shaders of paint instantly create bigger and brighter rooms. Horizontal and vertical stripes on a wall give the illusion of added length and height. Donate or recycle any low hanging, low emitting yellow lighting and invest in units that give off a generous amount of illumination. Quality lighting can do wonders for small rooms.

Away With Room Labels

Do away with the titles of conventionally designated rooms. Each room must serve its own unique roll. If the original function of a room itself is not necessarily needed, then change it into the one that will be valuable to the overall home. This may mean turning an attic into a bedroom, office into a bathroom, or entryway into a dining room. Just because the rooms in your house were designed to serve a particular purpose does not mean that you have to stick with it.

Go Green Or Go Home

If you plan to live in a tiny home, you have made the decision to live greener than ever before. With a lack of room for major or oversized appliances, you may find yourself ridding your home of a dishwasher, dryer, microwave and even a toaster. Your garden may only be watered with purified grey water while your roof may suddenly be covered in solar panels. Want to reduce your output of sewage? Try installing a Loveable Loo (a particular brand of eco toilet). A greener lifestyle is not only healthier for Mother Earth, but for a home’s inhabitants as well.

Less Is More

This mantra holds great reverence in the Tiny House Movement. Keep in mind that you only need to possess the bare minimum. Truly love every item that you do own, and to get rid of those that you do not. Do not let your closets or cupboards overrun with items. Custom build your furniture if nothing else fits. Purge your home of clutter a few times a year. The bottom line is that there is simply not enough space for all of your stuff.

Bigger Is Not Always Better

In these earth-conscious times, owning the largest house on the block is no longer a bragging right. Tiny homes are a great lesson that can teach us the distinction between what we want and what we need, how to live within our means and how to reduce our carbon footprint. Rather than a house becoming a product of its inhabitants, it is tiny homes that shape those who live in them. Size is all relative.

Emory Ann Kurysh


  • Hello! My name is Emory. I am a wife, mother of four (three on earth in heaven). This is our life on the Canadian prairies.
    email: helloscarlettblog@outlook.com

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