Ipê Rejected, Reclaimed

Aside from our specialty in longleaf pine, a more exotic type of flooring we work with is sustainable, reclaimed ipê (e-pay), also known as ironwood, or brazilian walnut. As the third name suggests, this wood generally hails from the dense forests of Brazil. Resplendent among types of wood used for decking and other outdoor purposes, ipê provides a study, nearly steel-tough, hardiness, due to the dense grain of the wood. So dense, in fact, that it often doesn’t float, is impermeable to water, and is nearly fireproof. Thus, it is exceptional for decks and the outdoors, but also provides hardy flooring that also looks beautiful, as untreated ipê, concieved in a myriad of gradient colors, often ages to a fine silver hue. 

There is, of course, a downside to these exceptional properties of the brazilian walnut. As it became more and more sought after on the market, extensive deforestation of sensitive rainforests resulted, and the emissions of these massive and environmentally lethal operations account for a significant percentage of human induced denigration.

In response to this, sustainable methods have been introduced to regulate the exploitation of rainforests-harvested wood. We only use ipê certifiably harvested from sustainable practices. 

The practices currently used in harvesting brazilian walnut often involve pruning or cutting strictly only smaller growths, rather than the massive canopy trees, these being the only sizes which one can literally carry out of the forest. This provision excludes the clear-cutting of forests, which requires all thickets, plants, and trees be leveled, to even get the vehicles and machines used into the forest. These smaller trees (the ones allowed to be cut) as well as fallen boughs and dead trees are carried out and cut into boards for decking. They are then replaced and the forest remains upkept. 

This process might be the source of the name ipê, which, if it is understood on analogy of ‘ipecacuanha’ (low-creeping-emetic-plant), which begins with the word ipe, a shortening of ipeb (low, creeping). Thus ipê perhaps denotes the low, creeping parts of the whole Tabeuia tree. Although this is purely hypothetical. 

Ipê we installed for the Grand Bohemian Mountain Brook. Photo courtesy of photos.al.com

Even sustainable products, however, have their waste. Most manufacturers of ipê decking select only uniformly colored boards with no visible grain. But because the trees harvested are smaller, and younger, are much more sappy, with a more visible grain and more gradiated colors, very little displays the coveted unseen grain and uniform color:



We took these rejects and fitted them, not into a deck, into flooring. The result is a stunning series of colors and grains on the floor, which all fit a similar palette, all siblings of the same kind of tree.

Our ipê floors currently adorn approximately 7000ft2 of various rooms throughout the luxurious Grand Bohemian Mountain Brook in Birmingham.