Adding Warmth to Industrial Design

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After personally designing and constructing a unique home from the ground up, Greg Olsen of Blue Moon Builders in Lemont, Pennsylvania, turned his attention to the floors, which were essential to creating the warm, yet industrial look the homeowner wanted.

“The homeowners had purchased a property that was deemed unbuildable by local architects, built on a hillside that included a cold-water trout stream wetland. We were brought in to help design and build the house,” explains Olsen. “Due to zoning restrictions, we had to build on a 35-foot slope.”

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Photos courtesy of Greg Olsen | Blue Moon Builders

Working closely with his clients, Olsen knew they had a very clear understanding of what they wanted for their new home – a look he described as “old barn mixed with modern industrial design.” To accomplish this aesthetic, he exposed steel beams and installed old warehouse windows the owners had purchased.

“It became evident the floors should look like they belonged in an old warehouse,” says Olsen. “The owners would have liked old barn floors, but if they were ever going to walk barefoot, they would need to be more refined.”

Olsen ended up installing refined 3” clear rift and quartered white oak in random lengths of 5’ to 12’ in the public spaces of the home. Upstairs, private spaces had 4”, 5”, and 8” character grade white oak installed.

Wood Stock Olsen Photo 1“I chose these lengths because I wanted a lot of ends coming together to enhance the effect I would be going for, which was an aged-looking warehouse floor. I had been developing some techniques with Allegheny Mountain Hardwood Flooring’s white oak through experimentation with making an iron acetate solution,” explains Olsen.

“I ended up presenting the homeowners with six different options using the solution on white oak mixed with Rubio Monocoat oil to get different effects.”

With the white oak now black due to the reaction, Olsen’s next step was to screen the floor using a 16” sanding disc, which removes small bit of material.

“After the oak floor turned black from the iron acetate solution, we let that dry, and then we went back in and screened it, wearing the wood down so that it looked like paths that had been worn out from heavy use in an old warehouse,” explains Olsen. “When you screen the floor without taking too much of the edge down, it looks very naturally worn to look like a 100-year-old warehouse floor.”

At this stage in the process, Olsen says he made sure to include input from the homeowners on how drastic the effect should be.

“After the initial screening, the main walking areas are worn down, but corners and edges will still be black. During the screening process, I would call the clients in every six hours or so and ask if it was enough,” says Olsen. “We went back and forth four times before we got the desired effect. It was their final design eye that said when it was enough.”

With the look of the floor finished, Olsen applied a Rubio oil with white pigment on the floor to protect them.

“Using a colored oil, it gives it almost a ghosted, dusty effect,” explains Olsen. “It brightened the floor up a bit and gave the floor a look that is very difficult to describe, that’s almost like a glaze.”

Olsen says that his clients were thrilled with the final look of the floor, and that this project is a good reminder that working with wood flooring is both a science and an art.

“It’s a combination of problem solving and artistic creativity. If you have a certain theme that needs to happen or is predetermined for the project, you should consider every option possible,” says Olsen. “We’re creating special effects with wood, and any time you do something like that, normal ideas of what a hardwood floor can look like need to be thrown out. You really have an incredible number of creative options.”

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