Original craftsmanship and solid red oak wood finishes were selling points for RDG Planning and Design when it came to selecting the old Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce building in Downtown Omaha as their new office.
The character of the building told stories of its past and the oak paid tribute to the design put into the space years ago. The company knew those design elements needed to stay. How to preserve the wood and make it part of an innovative design was their first job in the new space.
“We had our vision in mind. We are always talking about sustainability and we can’t just throw it (the wood) away, so what can we do to add it to the new space and pay homage to the previous tenants,” RDG Partner and Interior Designer Hilary Navratil said.
Their plan was to repurpose the wood into an ornate two-story staircase that sits in the middle of the main office and spirals up to the second floor. The material and the design were there, the challenge was creating it.
As the construction manager and general contractor for their renovation project, MCL’s craftsman knew how the pieces fit together.
Tom Holms joined MCL in 2002 as a Superintendent. His career as a craftsman started many years before then with some trees, a forest in Idaho and an Uncle who recruited his help for a project. Tom helped his uncle build a log cabin and furniture to accompany it. Ever since then he sees potential in raw materials.
“If you look at a piece of furniture and you really think about it, you realize that it started with a tree and that is where I got the bug,” said Holmes.
Tom looked at the oak RDG wanted to refurbish, and he saw the staircase he would build. He knew exactly how to bring their vision to life.
He started with removing, stripping, and finishing the existing wood and sourcing out additional material to match. The result was thousands of individual pieces of golden stained oak carved into strips that would create the walls and railings of the staircase.
More than your traditional structure, this design required patience and a perfectionist’s standards to complete the look RDG intended.
“Building on an existing framework, the design for this staircase uses a variety of materials to create a rhythmic, minimalist cadence. As users ascend or descended, the staircase folds, frames and evolves by transforming alongside the user’s path,” Navratil said.
Tom’s building plan included creating individual planks and screwing the wood strips through the back of those planks to hide any imperfections due to nails or installation. Then, he would install those planks as separate pieces intentionally hiding any points of connection between them. The curves required a little additional work. Each piece in those sets needed to be cut and milled differently to give the illusion that the wood is curving with the stairs.
“Everything is measurable. You have to keep the same spacing so as you bend the wood the spacing has to stay the same,” Holmes said.
Tom completed the entire staircase in just 6 months with a team of two MCL carpenters.
Woodworking and detailed finishes are the first things people see when they enter a building. You want a building partner you can trust to make your building leave a lasting first impression. Having craftsmen part of the MCL team eliminates gaps in communication. You know your project will be up to MCL quality standards.
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