One of the most popular home decor trends combines organic elements with sleek modernity — aptly named rustic chic. Many homeowners are incorporating the style into their space through recycled or reclaimed wood elements that add warmth and nature while still maintaining a clean look.
One Fargo company is at the center of the trend and has even taken another step forward by repurposing ash trees being removed by the city.
Seth Carlson started Dakota Timber Company five years ago by selling reclaimed wood, and the business has since morphed into a large-scale manufacturer of wood materials. His latest undertaking is working with the City of Fargo Forestry Department on a pilot program that turns removed ash trees into live edge ash slabs homeowners can turn into beautiful furniture or decor.
City Forester Scott Liudahl says the department started contemplating another way to use the removed trees that didn't involve turning them into wood chips. Conversations between the forestry department and Dakota Timber Company resulted in identifying ash trees marked for removal that could be processed into live ash slabs.
"We have a passion and desire to infuse sustainable building materials into the region," Carlson says about the endeavor.
Liudahl explains that the city has been diversifying its tree population for the past decade in preparation for emerald ash borer, an exotic pest that infests ash trees. The pest is not currently confirmed in North Dakota, but the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources discovered it in 2009 in St. Paul, and it spread to Duluth last year.
Liudahl says until Dakota Timber Company came along, the expense of shipping removed trees elsewhere simply couldn't be justified. Working together presented an exciting opportunity for both entities: the city is able to remove and replace trees that could become a liability, and Dakota Timber Company can reclaim wood for a new purpose.
For Carlson, the removed ash trees present an interesting material to expand the company's portfolio.
"These live edge ash slabs can have a wide range of uses for homeowners and DIY weekend warriors who want to make shelving or benches from them," he says. "Homebuilders can also purchase them for carpentry projects in new builds."
Working with live edge slabs — a term that refers to maintaining the original lines of the trunk — can be tricky for some do-it-yourselfers, so Dakota Timber Company employees are on-hand to help homeowners understand how to create the project they want to build.
"We have smart staff members who can offer tips for installing or finishing a number of projects," Carlson says.
Sometimes a person will come into the showroom with an idea in mind but no clear directions for what to purchase. In those cases, Dakota Timber Company employees work with the individual to guide them toward the right product.
"What we need to know first is the measurements of why the person is trying to do and the quantity of materials needed," Carlson says. "Inspiration through photos gives us an idea of colors and textures, so the homeowner often comes back with that information to get the process started."
Many people don't realize that a certain material lends itself better to certain projects; for example, much of the reclaimed lumber Dakota Timber Company sells works best as finished flooring, paneling and trimwork.
"The live edge ash presents a blank canvas, so it's great for making into furniture pieces like tables and shelves," Carlson says. The slabs can be more user-friendly for a new DIYer because fewer pieces of material are required.
When it comes to wood, a variety of colors are possible because it can be stained, so Carlson encourages homeowners to bring in a piece of trim if they're looking to match a current color in their home to a stain.
Much of the work Dakota Timber Company completes are unique, one-off projects but the company can produce large-scale, full-service work as well. Carlson says the company was recently involved in apartment building projects downtown that involved repurposing reclaimed or locally salvaged wood.
"Lots of people bring us wood from a barn that they don't know how to process," Carlson says. "People see a pile of old wood and think it's too hard to envision what that could be, but we specialize in turning any load of wood into a really cool product."