Burned Kebony adds Japanese flair to North London home thanks to ancient Shou Sugi Ban process

27 April 2017

First, the designers chose Kebony – then they burned it. The purpose was to replicate the aesthetic qualities of an ancient Japanese construction technique, but transplanted to a North London home.

Shou Sugi Ban is a UK manufacturer of charred timber products. It selected Kebony to create the distinctive modified timber cladding specified for use by the architects of the property. The process requires a fine attention to detail, and apparently can be dangerous, but the end results are said to be “remarkable” and a “worthwhile feat of ingenuity”.

The name of the company is a Japanese term that literally translates as ‘burnt cedar board’. Historically, Japanese carpenters sourced driftwood from the coastlines of Japan, both for its impressive durability and distressed appearance, after being subjected to salt water and harsh weather conditions.

Over time, however, it became increasingly difficult to source this driftwood due to high demand for such a hardwearing product. As a result, Japanese carpenters chose to create the desired effect by burning or weathering timber to give the original wood a charred and fragile finish.

“Kebony is one of the most durable woods that we have had the pleasure of working with. The charred effect helps to emphasise the detailed grain of the wood and this has been a popular choice for our customers. We can’t wait to showcase Shou Sugi Ban projects with Kebony in the future,” said Karl Harrison, Shou Sugi Ban’s founder.

The company has applied the ancient techniques to Kebony cladding to deliver what is said to be a unique and intriguing appearance. Both Kebony’s clear and character grade claddings are available in various different profiles, each varying in textured grain and tonal palette.

Kebony Character is available in Kuril (charred) and Kyushu (brushed), while Kebony Clear is available in Minami No (charred), Kiiro (brushed), Tekusucha (soft brushed) and Hijo Ni Mirikiteki Na (pre-weathered).

Despite these variations, the company says all Kebony products share the same high level of durability instilled by Kebony’s environmentally friendly patented technology which modifies sustainably sourced softwoods by heating the wood with furfuryl alcohol – an agricultural by-product. By polymerising the wood’s cell walls, the wood gains greatly improved durability and dimensional stability, giving it characteristics similar to those of the best tropical hardwood.

Pre-weathered Kebony by Shou Sugi Ban was carefully selected by Claridge Architects for the external cladding of a single-storey family home located in Hampstead, North London for its level of durability.

The wooden house suitably named, Oak Hill, is set at the foot of an original Victorian mansion block which comprises an extensive use of glass panelling to provide a widescreen view of the natural surroundings to promote the property’s open-ended nature. Diagonally laid strips of Hijo Ni Mirikiteki Na Kebony were incorporated into the design; creating a neutral palette with simple grey tones which complement the suburban nature of the surrounding garden.

Adrian Pye, international sales director at Kebony added: “It is wonderful to see the versatility of Kebony and how it reacts to the ancient Japanese technique of charring. Shou Sugi Ban has cleverly added a new element to Kebony’s repertoire and we are thrilled to be a part of this process.”