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Trend to watch: Ebony-stained cedar

Charcoal stain: edgy and modern, yet warm

It’s no surprise architects are opting for charcoal shades when it comes to stains, but in some cases clients are slow to catch up – at least until they see the final results.

When architect Robert Hutchison approached his clients in the Pacific Northwest with the proposal to stain the Western Red Cedar siding with an ebony shade, clients were concerned the dark stain wouldn’t blend into the forest, but Hutchison convinced them to trust his vision, and they were thrilled with the results.

“Clients are sometimes concerned that using a black stain will make their building stand out, but the opposite tends to happen,” explains Hutchison. “I finally convinced them to go for it. As soon as the first façade was completed, they immediately called me and left me a message saying, ‘Oh my gosh, the building almost disappears into the forest!’”

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While the exterior of the Courtyard House on a River is dark, the interior is light and open. Photo by Mark Woods

Sophisticated finish hard to resist

Hutchison’s Greenwater project was featured in this year’s Cedar Book X, a collectable coffee table book highlighting the best of Western Red Cedar architecture. The Greenwater project is a beautiful example of the movement toward ebony-stained cedar siding; it’s still a daring approach and – as Hutchison can attest – many homeowners are nervous to go dark. But once the results are revealed, the sophisticated and contemporary finish is hard to resist.

More praise for the subtly of black stain

On its website, Feldman describes the black-stained Western Red Cedar siding, explaining its aesthetic benefit: “A material palette showcasing black-stained cedar siding allows the house to sit subtly beneath the green canopies and shadows created by the oaks and redwoods hovering at the fog line. Discrete from the road, the home features lighter wood sunscreens integrated into its rear façade that both contrast with the cedar themselves and filter sunlight into defined strips against the dark façade.”

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Greenery pops against the ebony-stained Portola Valley Ranch by Feldman Architecture. Photo by Joe Fletcher

With the ability to be both subtle and dramatic, modern and warm, it’s no wonder homeowners and architects are drawn to the dark side.