Vignettes: Old Is New

Reclaiming the past makes us mindful of the present.

Photography Cooper & O'Hara; Sponsors: Mira Timber Frame and Fabloomosity


Project Creatives

IB Projects

Gwen Sautner-Davis, Project Director

Spark – The Branding Shop

Glen Ronald, President

Contact Renovations & Maintenance Ltd.

Paul Foster, Owner

Fitted Furnishings

Travis Bolinski, Owner

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic worldview based around three simple realities: Nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect. It’s a concept Gwen Sautner-Davis tries to live out, and pulls off with her team’s vignette. “We embrace Wabi-sabi not only in our home but in ourselves and our life,” she says.

Derived from Buddhist teaching, Wabi-sabi welcomes imperfection, asymmetry, and the ingenious integrity of natural objects and processes. Her team’s intentionally off-kilter vignette celebrates these ideas and, as a result, feels like it’s from a different era – because much of it is.  The main structural beams were taken from a demolished grain elevator, and the big barn door’s most recent home was a nondescript pile of wood. Both are over 100 years old.

A broken female bust sits in the entranceway and, once inside, a lone light bulb dangles from a hangman’s rope, lighting the vignette’s subtle but central piece, a massive canvas painting by team member Glen Ronald. It’s of a bison, foreground-framed to look as big as the mountains behind it, with faded faces half-hidden throughout, all faintly lit by the illuminating noose. It’s darker than most of his works, and the first time he purposely damaged a creation. “To fit the Wabi-sabi theme, I wanted a weathered or worn element to it, so I burned holes into it with a blow torch. I was a little nervous.”

For safety reasons, pipefitter Travis Bolinski had to use new pipes for the bench and table stands. So he filled them with water and froze them until they burst, then welded them back together to make them imperfect. “Wabi-sabi was a new term to us, but the concept of reusing and reclaiming is really popular,” he says. “People appreciate it.”

And reuse they did. Save for the pipes and canvas, every piece of material is all-natural or had a different original use. As Bolinski explains, it made for an interesting, if difficult, process. “For my job, we’re always trying to get as close to perfect as possible, but this was the opposite,” he says. “We wanted the most character, [something that’s] the most distressed, and one of my carpenters had a real hard time with that. The [frame] for the landscape is overlapping pieces, different thicknesses, and I was interested to see my team abandon that need for perfection. Literally, for the mirror, I said that’s too good.”

Get The Look

Barn Door

Along with a natural look, exposed interior wood gives a home a warm, cozy feeling. Urban Timber has a variety of swinging and sliding doors made from reclaimed wood.


Graphic Tile

Graphic tile is always stylish and popular, and River City Tile has a dizzying array of fractal patterns, and provides an easy way to achieve a stencilled look.

Price Upon Request

Rope Light

Pendant rope lights automatically add rustic charm to any room, but they also provide a chance for creativity. Pick a style from Park Lighting for optimum enchantment.


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