Railway wood sleepers, or the coarse wood planks used as the base for railway tracks, have been making an appearance in homes and offices for many years now. Sleeper wood used in interior décor may not necessarily be the planks used for tracks, but it is the same type of wood. Its weathered look is a texture that few designers can resist and it often ends up becoming the focus of space design.
Though sleeper wood has always been seen in cottages and farmhouses, these days it is so popular that furniture stores now especially stock sleeper wood furniture and home accessories. Because it is tough and versatile hardwood, it adapts easily to the role of a cladding material. A wide range of furniture, from worktables, main doors, bar cabinets, dining tables and beds to artificial beams and staircase treads, as well as nameplates and bell-hangers, are being created from sleeper wood.
The most popular pairings of sleeper wood are with steel or any other metal or metallic finish. Priti Chugh Kandhari, senior architect at Royal Palms, Goregaon, who has used sleeper wood for the entire porch and the grand entrance of The Emerald Club, Royal Palms, says: “It works beautifully in combination with steel and silver laminates, marrying the classic look with a rugged finish. Because it is easy to maintain and practically waterproof, it is ideal for outdoor applications.”
Wood work: Sleeper wood can be used in semi-outdoor spaces.
The sheer strength of sleeper wood adds to its advantages. Nails or decorative brass items, once embedded in it, sink into its surface and do not come out easily, adds Kandhari. Available in the form of logs, its knots can be exploited for artistic effect, and emphasized to deepen the wrinkled and windswept look. Sleeper wood can be matte-polished or given a polyurethane coating for greater drama. In an age of shining glass and chrome, the earthy charm of seasoned hardwood connects with our rural past.
To make them usable as material for décor, logs are cut and polished to minimize their surface roughness. With its dark grain, coarse texture and reasonable pricing, sleeper wood has become the material of choice for a lot of homes today. Home stylist Sonia Suri has used it innovatively as a base for her nameplate-cum-bell. “It enhances the look of the main door and I like the rustic feel it adds.”
Sleeper wood requires little or no embellishments because its beauty lies in its irregularity. Even when used in a combination with other woods, the rough-hewn sleeper wood gives texture and character to its surroundings.
However, you need to keep the following points in mind before you choose sleeper wood for your home:
• Keep surface dirt away, otherwise the planks will end up looking terribly dusty and ill-kempt. Surface dirt can be brushed away with a soft-bristled, long-handed brush.
• The charm of sleeper wood is its textured grainy surface. However, moisture can cause infestation by termites. Moisture intrusion should be prevented as much as possible.
One way of doing this is by varnishing the wood. Varnish helps in sealing the pores and retaining its original colour and texture. Doing this little bit of work diligently and regularly will save on larger and more expensive repairs later.
• Solvents or abrasive cleaners should be avoided. Do not allow strong detergents, ammonia, chemicals or other harsh cleaning substances to come in contact with the finished exterior of the wood as they damage the surface. Small nicks and scratches can be touched up with a matching, high-quality latex primer and paint.