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Designing with Natural Material

David Sutphen Design > Blog > Designing with Natural Material

As an architectural designer, I believe that good architecture requires quality materials. Time-tested materials that endure is synonymous with “natural” material. The correct selection of natural material, timely maintained, will age gracefully.

My experience has taught me nothing is maintenance free — but some materials are more rot resistant. Some engineered materials have their place. If carefully blended with natural materials you can have the best of both worlds, but natural materials, properly installed and maintained, will remain stable for a generation or more.

Built to last; is beauty.

So why consider natural building materials? While not as cheap as some man-made materials, they are often better. Most natural building materials are renewable and some like flooring are reclaimed. These materials age beautifully and reach their full elegance with time, not the other way around. They retain a natural beauty that is sometimes lost with composites.

There may be health benefits too. When you read the warning labels for the installation of these composite materials you realize that if they can be dangerous to install, they may not be the healthiest material to live with. The latest trends have not passed the test of time. User, beware.

Stone and brick – a solid choice.

One of the first building materials ever used is stone. For many of the same reasons that made it an important building material for thousands of years, it remains as one of the best natural materials today. Even though brick has to be formed and fired, it too is a beautiful natural material. Some of my favorite homes blend brick and stone.

Stone and brick floors can last for decades while showing very little wear. The wear they do show is the “inherent charm” I associate with the passing of time and nature.

Projects built with stone and brick are genuine, unique, well-built, and keep their value.

Stone is a great choice for indoor and outdoor countertops. Some stones, like soap stone and marble are considered to be a “living” finish; changing with the usage and time.

For landscape projects stone brings an organic feel and seamlessly blends with plants, wood and water. Pathways, benches, fountains, garden walls and patio floors can last forever.

Timber and hardwood – an easy decision.

Sustainable timber is the most commonly used natural building material, whether used as part of the internal framing or left exposed. Timber frame buildings use this material as part of the design and in the right setting can be very appealing. Timber is incredibly versatile, durable and structurally sound. Its strength and resilience make it suitable for most residential construction.

Hardwood floors are known for their durability and aesthetic appeal. They significantly enhance the value of a home. Wood shingles and cedar or cypress clapboards are used for siding and are very attractive as they age.

There is nothing like to feel of a solid wood entrance door. Wood is a preferred material for interior millwork, moldings, case work and cabinets. When crafting furniture and cabinetry, wood provides a diverse range of species – offering unique colors and grain patterns.

Keeping it Real.

When designing a project, large or small, consider how natural materials can be incorporated into the final design. The use of natural materials will create an environment that will age gracefully. That can’t be said about much in life.