Hank the dog bounds across the showroom to greet you when you enter the showroom at New Life Hardwoods in the Dallas Design District. Once you have told him how adorable he is, the second thing you’ll notice is that the space looks and feels like an art gallery. Each wall sports beautiful framed art mixed with samples of antique wood finished in exquisite Danish oils.
As it turns out, the gallery feel was completely by design. Owner Pat Hicks explains: “We knew the quality, beauty and history of our special old woods, and we wanted the space to be anything but the typical displays of cascading racks. I thought of these glorious pieces of wood as art. When this wonderful warehouse space became available, it seemed like a natural fit to create an art gallery of wood that also housed edgy, framed art.” All of the art in the moving gallery is on loan from Renee Rhyner of Renee Rhyner & Company with offices in both Dallas and New York.
“One of the fun parts of the business is not only telling the stories behind each special wood, but also educating our customers about the story of our great North American forests as discovered by the Europeans,” Hicks continues. “When the Europeans first set foot on the North American continent, before them stretched a forest roughly equivalent in size to the Amazon rainforest. These giant trees were used to make everything from ship masts to toys, fueling an enormous wood-based economy. By 1860, millions of acres of forest land had been clear cut with no thought given to regeneration.
“Four-hundred-year-old trees were used to construct barns, schools, businesses and, of course, homes. Here in Dallas, homes built around 1935, and before, were made from that old wood. When you see a bulldozer destroying a 1920s house, they’re throwing away 400-year-old wood.”
Today, there is a renaissance of appreciation for the quality and beauty of the wood produced by these forests and found in structures still standing.
New Life Hardwoods specializes in transforming reclaimed hardwood taken from old buildings, dead trees, river-recovered logs and local housing structural materials into new tongue and groove flooring, barn doors, furniture, counter and island tops, wall coverings and ceiling coverings. “Our artisans are magicians when it comes to working with reclaimed wood,” Hicks says.
Wooden beams are not just structural these days. They are often used for decorative purposes, and they are in high demand. Antique hand-hewn beams—from barns constructed before the turn of the last century or from beams milled from enormous “standing dead” oak trees killed by disease, drought or other natural causes—are regularly sourced for customers.
“We have suppliers across the country we have worked with for years. These guys have proven themselves to stand behind their products and, if there is a problem, they do whatever it takes to make it right,” says Hicks. “The reclaimed wood business is a ‘different animal.’ Tough learning experiences have helped us put together the right team of people who can consistently produce exquisite old wood for us. The journey has been well worth it.”
The clean lines, colors and contemporary feel of the 17,000-square-foot facility that is home to New Life Hardwoods were no accident. “A lot of people think the term ‘reclaimed’ automatically means rustic and old-fashioned, immediately conjuring up an image of Main Street in old Dodge City. We know such imagery is not the case, as we consistently use these old woods to add warmth, depth and contrast to modern surroundings. People are surprised when they see the juxtaposition of old wood with galvanized steel, a look not at all at odds with modern design,” Hicks says. “Giving our customers concrete examples of our design concepts helps to spark their own creativity. Based on the feedback we’ve received, we think we have done that.”
One final distinction of the New Life Hardwoods showroom is that the facility is perfectly suited for hosting events, with its close proximity to downtown Dallas, American Airlines Center, Uptown and Clyde Warren Park. “We have corporate training events, luncheons, cocktail parties, wedding receptions, birthday parties, charity events, you name it,” says Hicks. “Everyone is welcome.”