A few weeks ago, a colleague brought an article, “Dad Style”, from the Wall Street Journal to my attention. Well written as expected of WSJ but what was so surprising is its correlation to reclaimed wood. As disparate as the worlds of dad style and reclaimed wood may seem, there’s a surprising amount of connection between the architecture world and dad culture. What was once outdated is now back in vogue, and as a result, dad culture has been one of the most interesting cultural phenomena of the last few years. Nowadays, it’s common to see men wearing loafers and windbreakers that look as if they came straight out of 1996.
The Birth of “Dad Style”
First, it’s crucial to understand the origins and intentions of dad style. It emerged out of another trend known as normcore, which was categorized by bland, simple anti-fashion attire. The movement started off not as a fashion trend, but rather a social reaction to the rise of individualism that had long characterized popular culture. Normcore was all about going back to basics and opting for a more dependable style.
From the Wall Street Journal: Dad style showcases fatherly fashion with basic, reliable wardrobe choices
Dad style takes the normcore concept one step further. With its “function over fashion” attitude, dad style is reliable and lasting, and the young people who embrace the style often do so to find an anchor to adulthood and stability. Millennials around the world are finding solace in the staying power of dad style, and that desire for permanence isn’t just limited to fashion.
As it turns out, dad style has a lot to say about architecture. Striving for durability and timelessness is often a priority during the planning process. This priority is a matter of both aesthetics and practicality. A building that stands the test of time has broad aesthetic appeal while buildings or interior spaces designed solely with the latest trends in mind will need a redesign in a matter of years. As Ohio State University design professor Rebekah Matheny noted in a paper for PLATE, this lack of longevity reduces sustainability and adds more waste to an already wasteful industry.
Dad Style in Building Design
This raises the question––what does it mean for a building to have “dad style” timelessness? As BUILD points out, there are several key aspects to architectural timelessness: permanence, adaptability, natural connection, and weathering, to name a few. To achieve these criteria, builders have to think about not only the actual design but the materials they use.
From GB&D: Reclaimed wood bring timeless “dad style” to even the trendiest of spaces
This is where the connection to reclaimed wood comes in. In many ways, reclaimed wood is a “dad material.” Able to withstand fleeting trends, reclaimed wood complements any environment and provides an element of nature. Wood is also a warm contrast to many contemporary design trends like science fiction-inspired skylines and floating event spaces. Wood is inherently organic and rustic, so even when used alongside more modern materials, it creates a sense of connection to the earth.
From TerraMai: Rustic wood paneling in the Jet.com adds elements of biophilic design to this workspace
Just like dad style, reclaimed wood is tried and true. It adds personality and comfort to a space without being pretentious or contrived. It also meets all of the criteria for timelessness. To quote the article, “ Dad style feels like a functionality play along with some nostalgia”. Reclaimed wood can conjure that same sentiment. Functional but it tugs at emotion too. Each piece of reclaimed wood bears its own history and displays signs of its past life. From reused barn wood to Naturally Distressed Teak, reclaimed wood is particularly distinct, much like pulling out a trusted old pair of Levis or khakis only to discover how useful and perfect they are.
From TerraMai: Reclaimed skip planed red oak is a particularly eye-catching reclaimed wood material
Reclaimed wood and wabi-sabi
While dad style is new, its concept is not. The WSJ article connects Dad Style to Wabi-Sabi, the Japanese term referencing beauty in the imperfections. This Eastern perspective finds beauty in brokenness, embracing flaws and focusing more on humility than extravagance. WSJ states it as being yourself and not worrying about looking model perfect. Clothing styles come and go and it can be tiring to keep up. TerraMai recycles wood back into the design world with an emphasis on its story. Think of it as a design material with lasting fit, quality and connection. In contrast to clinically clean spaces, buildings that focus on wabi-sabi philosophy are vibrant and full of life.
From TerraMai: This weathered wood installation at Google Quad Campus pairs wabi-sabi philosophy with clean, open design
Reclaimed wood, with its markings and imperfections, is a material that wholeheartedly aligns with wabi-sabi. Reclaimed wood is visually intriguing, and since no two pieces are alike, it carries with it a large amount of aesthetic variation. Many designers will place a spotlight on the imperfection of reclaimed wood; the popularity of Mission Oak is one example of wabi-sabi in action.
From TerraMai: This Mission Oak flooring with its occasional nail and fastener holes prefilled with black epoxy brings a bit of wabi-sabi into this retail environment.
Just like your dad’s closet of old treasures, installing reclaimed wood can feel like reconnecting with a life-long friend. It can roll with the times and not feel overdone or like it’s trying too hard. Reclaimed wood embodies the ethos of both dad style and wabi-sabi and creates timelessness wherever it’s used.