Everybody’s talking about Charred timber cladding or Shou Sugi Ban as people know it.
But what is it and how can we incorporate it into our home design?
Shou Sugi ban is a term used to describe the process of charring timber with fire. It is currently taking the world by storm. Already huge in the States and Australia, its popularity is spreading like wildfire through Europe. Architects, as well as designers, are keen to incorporate Shou Sugi ban into their projects. If you saw anything from Milan’s international furniture fair recently, some prestigious design houses, as well as some of the greatest global brands, showcased charred pieces including Armani Casa, Riva and Roche Bobois. Their carbonised wood pieces use the same techniques that we use here at.
Look, here is a scantily clad Angelina sitting on a carbonised chair by Maarten Baas for Moooi… Everyone loves carbonised timber!!
Oooh, Fancy… so where are you based?
TOASTED is based in the heart of the good old apple county of Armagh in Northern Ireland. We offer a whole range of delicious charred timber products and can ship them to you if you like.
So what is it again? Can we butter it?
No! No butter or jam required. Basically, it’s nothing new. In fact, it all started way back a couple of thousand years ago. Here’s a quick story to fill you in…
Once upon a time in Japan, families would often store their food in little wooden huts. They would cook in here too and their problem was that all too often these huts would go on fire and the entire family’s winter food supply would literally go up in smoke. Then they would starve and die which kind of sucked in a not very happily ever after kind of way…
Until one day some ‘bright spark’ (see what I did there?) decided that if they set the wood on fire before they built with it, then it wouldn’t go on fire again. Have any of you have experienced the dread of going camping and letting the campfire go out? Well, try relighting that blackened charred kindling fellow campers!! It doesn’t matter how much lighter fuel you saturate it with…that thing’s dead!
So a completely practical side effect of this beautiful burning process is that the fire fireproofs it! Cool no?
After enjoying their buildings not burning down for a while, the Japanese people discovered that the insects that had been chomping on their walls had ceased and appeared to have taken themselves off to pastures new. Turns out bugs hate the taste of charcoal!! Who knew? Another plus. Add to this the fact that the burning process also completely weatherproofs the building too and you start to feel they were really onto something. The upsides just keep coming, don’t they? Hardly worth mentioning that mould and spores don’t grow on it either. Seems petty really…
The charcoal layers provide pure protection. In fact, the oldest building currently standing on the planet is clad in Shou Sugi ban. And it’s been around since 700A.D!!
Great story! Any nerdy science bits to wow us with now?
Well since you asked… the fire burns off the cellulose layers in the wood while the strong structural lignin stays completely intact. This causes the beautiful textures associated with Shou Sugi Ban to really come to the fore. People just can’t help stroking the wood and feeling those ridges created by nature. It’s so tactile. Be advised, strangers can and will want to stroke your home. It’s something you might want to prepare yourselves for.
So how can we use this amazing charred timber? For exterior?…or interior design?
Well, we have adapted and refined the skills invented by the Japanese people to offer a contemporary range of Toasted timber. Most people are putting this stuff on their walls. Either as timber cladding outside,….or on feature walls inside their homes. It is a very adaptable material and lends itself just as easily to an industrial feel, a contemporary look, or a rustic vibe. It blends with brick, concrete, stonework or metal.
You can choose your wood species, the amount of burn you like, the profile and style of your cladding etc so that your Toast is completely bespoke and tailormade to your project.
modern house extension charred timber cladding
charred timber clad internal wall
Why can’t we grab a blowtorch and do it ourselves?
You can!! There are some people who want to give it a go themselves and, with some trial and error and the odd singed eyebrow, it is perfectly possible. It takes a lot of time and energy, and potentially an occasional hospital run, but for those of you who like to self-build, it is a very rewarding creative process. We have adapted our own secret processes over the years to make sure we get a consistent and beautiful finish using a variety of temperatures and burn techniques, so if you need something a little bit special, we’d obviously recommend getting those in the know to help you create something truly spectacular.
Here is a picture of me in the burn shed looking all serious at a plank of timber cladding 🙂
Here is the reality of me burning on a daily basis looking more like Bert the chimney sweep from Mary Poppins: oohhhh smoky.
So far our clients love the wow factor and the pure aesthetic beauty of our Toasted timber…but they’re not all just vain and shallow. They also respect the sustainability and general green-ness of Shou Sugi Ban as well. Also, it must be said that a lot of love is coming in for the low, slash no-maintenance factor too. The fact that you won’t have to repaint or re-stain your building for the next 80-100 years is frankly a big draw for people thinking of using timber cladding.
So come and have a look at our Instagram or Facebook feed and see if anything inspires you to have some toast on your dream home? We’d love to see what you think!!
Here at Slemish Design Studio Architects, Steven from the office has started his own “grand designs” a granny flat for his parents to the rear of his house. With the house being from the 10930’s the idea was to put on an extension to sit out from the rest of the house.. this is where the charred timber cladding came into play… I’ve spoken with Sasha a pile of times to make sure I know what I’m doing.. thankfully she pointed me in the right direction… just hope now it turns out the way I’ve imagined lol.
We work and a variety of projects all over Northern Ireland & in the Republic of Ireland…..feel free to get in touch should you wish to discuss your project on the form below.