March 2012 Issue
Olde Wood Ltd. owner Tommy Sancic showcases the company’s reclaimed materials in his Stark County home.
The small sign attached to a rustic post between the dining room and great room says, “Yes, I was born in a barn.” But it is not the owners of the Stark County home who can make that claim. It is the house itself with its 6,800 square feet of living space. Not only can the home list several vintage barns as part of its heritage, but an old train station and former industrial buildings as well.
The unusual Pike Township home, set atop a gentle slope and overlooking a rowboat-perfect small lake, belongs to Tommy and Mandy Sancic and their two children. (As well as a dog, two horses, pigmy goats, chickens, cats, rabbits and pigs.) The couple began building the house in 2006 from reclaimed materials, including old barn siding, wide plank wooden flooring, hand-hewn beams and slate roofing tiles. The natural building materials showcase the family’s preference for furnishings that reflect a lodge look combined with sophisticated Western and high country style. Think chocolate brown leather furniture and large decorative bowls of shed deer antlers found in the woods.
Tommy Sancic owns Olde Wood Ltd. in Malvern, Ohio, which he founded in 1997. The company is best known for its custom milled antique hardwood flooring. Reclaimed wood (much of it originally from old-growth forests) from vintage structures is kiln-dried and milled for “new” solid wood and engineered flooring. But the business also needed a showcase for the building materials that can be repurposed in homes. Sancic, acting as general contractor, solicited the help of professionals, friends and family to create a one-of-a-kind home filled with historical significance.
The weathered exterior siding and main post-and-beam section of the house are rescued timber from several vintage barns. The floors are a wonderful mosaic of antique oak, wormy chestnut and dark walnut that took eight years to collect. (According to the Sancics, finding walnut in old barns is rare. Farmers didn’t like to use the species, which would make horses sick if they gnawed on it.) Douglas fir floor joists from the former Fostoria Glass Co. (which operated in West Virginia from 1891 to 1986), strengthens construction in several areas.
Look closely at the white pine floor in the home’s guest room: Yes, those are the markings of a shotgun blast. The wood was reclaimed from the Magnolia Railroad Station — decommissioned in 1922 — which served the Stark County town’s A.R. Elson Flouring Mill. The Sancics have no idea how the shotgun marks got there, although sometimes they make up a story for guests, before finally confessing they don’t know. Also, the stair treads on one of the home’s stairways are made with reclaimed wood that was part of 50 former Army arsenal buildings along Lake Erie in Cleveland. Some doors are rare American chestnut, framed in walnut.
The only major area in the home without hardwood flooring is the bedroom belonging to the couple’s 9-year–old daughter. She opted for carpeting.
Sancic’s company buys and dismantles old barns, although some owners believe their dilapidated structures are worth more than Olde Wood pays. Sancic points out that the cost of demolition, transportation, nail removal, seasoning and milling is not inexpensive and figures into the offer. About 50 percent of the wood that comes into the company is defective and cannot be used as customer product. A green company, Olde Wood turns the waste into sawdust or a fuel source for its fireboxes to season its wood and to heat buildings.
“If you want a piece of American history, get wood that comes from a barn,” Sancic says. “If someone wants a certain species of wood and wants to know where it comes from, they need to let us know in advance. Sometimes I can tell them exact information. Other times if it is wood I bought from a supplier or another barn dismantler, I may only be able to tell them the region [it came from]. But we don’t charge any extra for history.”
About 85 percent of the wood used in the Sancic house is reclaimed, and it is definitely the focal point. Hardwood flooring, in particular, is beautiful, easy to care for, allergen free and timeless. Think heart pine, cherry, tobacco pine, red oak, hickory, beech and maple.
The variety of wood with different colors and grains complements the home’s décor with its hammered copper dining room table and black metal staircase railings. But other reclaimed materials contribute to the home’s beauty and commitment to green construction.
For example, the focal point of the home’s great room, with its 30-foot-high ceiling, is a massive stone fireplace. But its actual weight is deceptive. Sancic’s brother created a 4-inch-thick stone veneer from slabs cut from old barn stones. The sandstone slabs are affixed to cement blocks that form the core. The result is an attractive fireplace that is less costly and lighter than total stone, but better quality than a thin “lick and stick” stone veneer.
“In the 1800s and early 1900s, people who wanted to show off didn’t buy fancy cars. They put fancy stone under their barns as foundations,” says Ryan Lowe, a spokesman for Olde Wood.
And what do you do with modern bathtubs that look a bit jarring in a casually elegant home of warm wood? Mandy Sancic cleverly wrapped the outer tub walls in sheets of “rusty” tin reclaimed from old barns to incorporate them into the total look of the whole house.
It would also be very difficult to find another antique oak “cabinet” like the one in the Sancics’ dining room. Approximately 6 feet high by 6 feet long, the piece was originally a series of four side-by-side school lockers dating to 1910. Sancic’s workers found the lockers above the doors in a barn. The piece, then painted green, was used by a farmer to store oilcans and tools.
“I know our oldest reclaimed barns will be gone eventually. The barns from the 1820s, 1830s and 1840s are all going, almost gone,” says Sancic. “We are seeing more barns now from the 1890s to the 1920s. And it’s true, reclaimed timber can cost twice that of new lumber. But we are saving what wood is left from landfills or being burned and giving [people] the opportunity to have something beautiful in their homes.”
For more information, visit oldewoodltd.com.