22 February 2023

If the floors could talk - At Thor's Hammer every piece of timber tells a story

| Katrina Condie
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Couple in kitchen

Recycled timber flooring and kitchen benchtops bring character to Elisa Sko and Andrew Oliver’s Hackett home. Photo: Rohan Thomson/Thor’s Hammer.

Thousands of high school kids have run, jumped, hopped and skipped across the timber flooring that is now a stunning feature of a Canberra home.

The gleaming floorboards, which once graced the gymnasium at Bowral’s Chevalier College in the Southern Highlands, were bound for landfill before a timber-recycling team stepped in.

Thor’s Hammer director Thor Diesendorf said the storm-damaged flooring, complete with the original strips of coloured paint, was salvaged from the school and given a new lease of life. It is now a unique talking point in Elisa Sko and Andrew Oliver’s Hackett home.

“The gymnasium flooring looks amazing and adds personality and intrigue to their space,” Thor said.

During the renovation of their first family home, Elisa and Andrew have also used recycled timber, sourced by Thor’s Hammer, for their kitchen benchtops and as a feature post in the living room.

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Elisa said visitors to their home commented on the fun, confetti-like look of the flooring, which complements the home’s design brief of “experimental, sustainable and joyful”.

“Some are unsure why the floor has coloured ‘stickers’ all over it. But I reassure them this is what happens when you mix up the boards of an old basketball court floor and relay them down,” she said.

“The colours resonate with me because I am a designer and I love that there is no pattern.”

Andrew said the quality rock maple from Denmark, complete with scuff marks from decades of exposure to school shoes, was incredibly hard and had a family connection.

“My mum grew up in Moss Vale in the Southern Highlands, some of my cousins went to school at Chevalier, and one uncle and one aunty were teachers there,” he said.

“It looks amazing too, giving the house that Scandi look – but it’s also a bit cheeky and fun.”

Andrew also has a link to the recycled teak kitchen benchtops, sourced from the old CSIRO plant science laboratories at Black Mountain.

“I am a biologist and spent years at the ANU, so I have an awareness that researchers developed new grain varieties for disease resistance, water-use efficiency, and salt and acid soil tolerance on these benches,” he said.

“I love that the timber was harvested 60 years ago from trees that were hundreds of years old. Old-growth tropical forests that are now mostly protected. You can’t buy this timber new anymore.”

The couple chose to use recycled timber in their renovation for its sustainability, beauty and uniqueness, and Elisa said they probably saved about $45,000 by renovating compared with building a new kitchen.

“Using recycled timber means that we could use species that are unusual and hard to source,” Andrew added.

“At the front of the house, there is a post which is an old power pole. In its former life it spent oodles of years holding up things that are very heavy – who knows what or where, but it’s always been a workhorse.

“The imperfections, bolt holes and cavities made by borers add so much character and beauty to it. You just don’t get that with new products.”

Elisa said with a shortage of materials, transport difficulties, and importation costs going through the roof, it was important to support local business and buy local products.

“Timber is a product that, if maintained, will last for generations,” she said.

Elisa and Andrew have documented their renovation on Instagram.

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Thor said many Canberrans were opting to renovate and improve their homes rather than going for a knockdown rebuild.

“People are really keen to get reclaimed timber of a high quality that is sourced locally. They want something special with a history and a story behind it,” he said.

“A lot of our customers are environmentally aware and like to have beautiful feature pieces in their home, whether that’s a front door, flooring or an entire kitchen.

“Using recycled timber gives a home character and makes a standard house into something really special. In many cases, the older and more worn the timber gets, the more beautiful it becomes.”

At Thor’s Hammer, every piece of timber is tracked from the original demolition so, whether it becomes a custom piece of furniture or part of a home renovation, it has a story to tell.

Pop in and meet the team at the Thor’s Hammer showroom, workshop and gallery in Fyshwick or join one of their interesting site tours.

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