Slats that Make a Statement
As Darren and I poured ourselves into planning the design of our second home, built for ourselves, by ourselves, we came to the discussion of the exterior. We knew that we would have large 4x8 panels of hardi-board and 4 inch wide vertical strips of hardi-plank covering the seams...but how to make it interesting and uniquely us? We deliberated over color combos until we were blue in the face - should we do a dusty blue main with white trim...what about green? Or brown...no, not brown! Do we make it look like an old fashioned barn or a super modern home built in the middle of a forest? Then, inspiration struck! We don't have to make it unique with color only, but instead we could utilize an architectural feature - cedar slats. I envisioned horizontal cedar slats that hovered slightly off the house wrapping the front corner and then above and below each window. The honey color of the cedar would go perfectly with a 50's style aqua/mint/green/blue color that I had my eye on already.
It is one thing to have an idea and draw it out on paper (my part). It's an entirely different thing to determine how to accomplish the look, support the structure and make the wifey happy (Darren's part). Luckily, this wasn't our first building rodeo and we quickly determined how to make this vision a reality. Now all we had to do was make it happen.
First we needed supplies: 1x4x8 cedar planks (also referred to as slats), 2x2 wooden boards, brackets, boiled linseed oil, chop saw, blow torch, level, spacer, adhesive caulking, orbital sander and saw horses.
We began by mounting the 2x2 wooden boards onto the house from the end of one window, around the corner and terminating where we knew the cedar boards would end (which was about halfway down the windows on the other side of the corner). It was determined that we didn't really want to see these boards, with the main focal point being the cedar slats, so we painted the 2x2 boards the same color as the house.
After those dried, we started the process or measuring the cedar planks for each location. This would have been easier if there were no windows involved, but alas, we have windows and obviously didn't want to cover them up. It was also important to us to have the final product as visually pleasing as possible, so we needed to be careful of each board that we were choosing and what location it would be placed. There were some boards that were lighter, almost pine looking, others that had a mix of the lighter pine coloring and the more desirable honey cedar color, some (which were my favorite) that were entirely the honey cedar color I imagined, and then still others that were darker colored.
We attacked the puzzle starting just below the front side window, which was in the middle-ish and moved down from there. We selected four boards at a time and brought them over to the saw horses, deciding which pieces were going along the front vs the side and which two would be paired together. This was essential to the end product because visually, your eye follows the boards around the corner, so you want the paired boards to be compatible in color. We would then begin the process of making the cedar slats purest beauty shine through.
The orbital sander took off any aging, dirt or surface imperfections. Then we applied some boiled linseed oil to help bring out their color and protect them against the elements. In order to help the oil soak in (and because Darren really, really wanted to use his blow torch), we then lightly torched the surface of each slat and then reapplied another coat of oil. Not only did the blow torch aid in the absorption of the oil, but it also brought out more of the grains in the wood. We anticipated this happening, but when you see it in person, it's beautiful to watch the wood really come to life.
Next, we carefully positioned the first slat on the front of the house, taking extreme care to ensure that it was lined up where it needed to be to meet it's partner piece on the corner and that it was level. If you've ever worked with dimensional lumber before, you know what a task this is. First of all, let me take this moment to again emphasis the ridiculousness of dimensional lumber. A 2x4 piece of wood is in fact no actually 2 inches by 4 inches. I know! ridiculous! I have heard explanations that when wood planks are cut off a tree trunk, they start off at these measurements, but then after they go through the planking machine to make them "uniform", they are reduced down to smaller dimensions. I'm not 100% sure that I buy that, but even if I did, why not just call it what it is - 1 1/2 x 3 1/2? Oh, this is harder to say and we just like it to be simple? Laziness, I say. Anyway, I digress. Another difficulty with lumber is that it can bow, become warped and not be cut completely level across the entire length. This, my friends, is where you have to put your OCD to the side and bring out your inner artist. We would position the slat at the corner, use the level to make sure it was level, then I would step back and look at the big picture to make sure that it actually looked level. I would say the majority of the boards did actually line up as level, but there were certainly some where we had to nudge them just a bit and forget that the little level bubble was not exactly in the middle for the sake of the overall visual satisfaction of the feature we were creating.
Once we had the pair mounted, Darren took the adhesive caulking and secured the bracket to the backside of the corner where the slats met. We then used a piece of scrap wood that was just the right width to serve as our guide spacer to make sure that as we started the next pair of slats, that they were horizontally about 2 inches apart. And so it went, over and over and over again until we had completely wrapped the corner in cedar.
To date, this front corner is all that we have finished, but we plan to complete the same technique above and below all of our front windows. The final product, although not entirely finished yet, is exactly what I envisioned! Mixed with the angular shape and simple lines of the home and the paint color, it feels very mid-century modern and very...us!