Let’s face it: Winter gets a bad rap, the season of our discontent and all that. Baudelaire had many an unkind thing to say about it—its limping days, its ennui, its “sour fruit of incurious gloom.”
We don’t often think of winter as the time of reinvention and reuse but rather as a domestic penance of snow shoveling and wood piling; as Sinclair Lewis once said, “Winter is not a season; it’s an occupation.” It’s the period of hibernation, of deciduous trees gone bare to store their energy through the long months, fields lying fallow, the Hudson Valley and Catskills resting beneath blankets of snow.
And of snowplows and blowers and salted roads. This is the dawn of Yin in ancient Chinese medicine: dark, slow, cold, inward-facing energy. It’s the time to retreat and contemplate. Even Baudelaire, was inspired by its challenges, finding beauty enough among the barren trees and blankets of snow—or suffering enough because of those things—to write about it.
We think the critics of winter have it all wrong. Winter is, in fact, a time of reinvention and inspiration. So for our Winter 2014 issue we’ve meditated on the homes and businesses that have been reborn, in a way: reused and recycled to craft a new vision or experience.
Of the three Rs—reduce, reuse, recycle—most of us focus on recycling. We scrub our plastic yogurt containers clean and place them in bins. Then they’re carted off to a plant that might turn them into the next generation of yogurt containers (or they might be reborn as fleece). Recycled materials are common in homebuilding these days, from construction panels crafted from rice and maize to decking made of old plastic bags and bubble wrap. Recycling converts the material—sometimes turning it into something else—for a new purpose.
But what of the second R? Salvaged materials are in fashion, too—everything from pavers to cabinet castoffs. They require no real reinvention, no boiling down to their original parts to be transformed into something else; all you need to do with them is to slot them into a new spot, perhaps to adjust their function. And reuse, of course, inherently promotes reducing, the first, easiest, and perhaps most important R.
The stories we bring you have salvaged materials, new uses for old land, and unexpected results from expert rearrangement. In one home, a designer transforms the space primarily by arranging and displaying the owner’s furnishings and artworks in brand new ways, making connections the owner had never thought of (“Working for the Weekend,” page 18). In another, an 18th-century farmhouse is expanded and modernized, but keeps many of its original elements intact; the master woodworker who owns the home lovingly hand-sanded the hewn beams himself. When he couldn’t salvage the wood flooring, he spent hours making the new wood look old, oiling and polishing until it had the same worn beauty as all the reused materials in the house (“Rekindled,” page 31). We also feature a story about a nonprofit that connects fledgling farmers to landowners; this group helps the land find new purpose—fallow fields reused (“Link in the Food Chain,” page 12).
Wood, of course, is a natural contender for reuse, and in this issue we see it at work in many ways. In a luxurious log “cabin” (it has eight bedrooms, so perhaps cabin isn’t quite the right word), huge timbers make this capacious home seem cozy (“Wonders of Wood,” page 39). We take on woodstoves—not the old fashioned cast iron models that have remained the same for centuries, but a new crop of high-modern stoves, at home in any mid-century modern pad, as well as energy efficient (“Burning Bright,” page 25).
You may be readying yourself for winter, retrieving those old mittens and hats from the basement, stocking up on ice melt, and changing the batteries in your flashlights in case of major storms. But don’t forget the promise of the season, in all its offerings, from cross-country skiing to the chance to ponder the state of your own home. Perhaps you, too, will find the inspiration to reinvent your home this season. Remember, of course, that without winter, spring and summer would be much less sweet.