Trade Secrets: Dinesen - In Timber We Trust

Updated: Jun 4, 2019

Skysuite London - John Pawson - image © Richard Davies

After bursting onto the London scene with John Pawson's project for Skysuite Offices in 2002 (pictured above - photo © Richard Davies), Dinesen was further embedded into the local design psyche with 14 expansive rooms at the Saatchi Gallery that were completed in 2008.

Harris Calnan first worked with Dinesen in 2011 on a mansion flat refurbishment in Holland Park, designed by Italian Architect Valentina Di Piazza of V+V Interni. Since then, we have worked on many award-winning projects that have included a wide array of applications of Dinesen products including floors, stairs, wall cladding, and even bespoke fitted furniture. The experience gained along the way has given us a profound appreciation for the exceptional nature of these materials but it has also given us a deep understanding of the skills and expertise needed to make sure that they live up to their full potential.

162 Oakwood: Completed by Harris Calnan

Quality and craftsmanship are two of the core values that we aim to bring to our projects. The lessons learned from working with Dinesen products, as well as other products of a similar calibre, have combined to create a substantial pool of knowledge and contacts that benefits all our commissions. The characteristics of the Dinesen planks themselves are now almost legendary: incredible lengths (up to 15 metres long in Douglas) and spectacular widths (up to 50cm wide in oak) make these boards immediately recognisable and are guaranteed to have a transformative effect on any space where they are used. Once a niche product, Dinesen planks are now just as likely to be found in the intimate confines of small private homes as they are in magnificent public buildings.

Left to Right: The Saatchi Gallery - Allford Hall Monaghan Morris; U - Schweiz - © Hans-Jörg Ruch; Aarhus - Trine Hjortshøj - image © Gert Skærlund Andersen

The trees that supply the planks can be over 200 years old but are all sourced from sustainable forests, mostly in Germany. Many of the company’s suppliers are certified under modern international accreditation schemes such as FSC and PEFC but as Thomas Dinesen is keen to point out, the foresters’ attitude and sense of responsibility are every bit as important as the various certifications they achieve.

Left and Right: Black Forest, Germany; Centre: Thomas Dinesen - all images courtesy Dinesen

However, the relatively high cost of Dinesen planks means that they tend to be a material that will be used "one day....." rather than "every day". An additional factor is that the boards are delivered unfinished, requiring skilled local artisans to finish the work that Dinesen's forests have started.

This is where Harris Calnan's working relationship with Roger Hyde Limited completes the circle. In addition to contributing to many of our projects over the years, Roger Hyde have particular experience of all kinds and sizes of Dinesen installations. In addition, they also maintain the Dinesen floors that they install (more on that later) and so have terrific insights into the whole-life cycle of these products.

So what happens when "one day" becomes "today"? How do you make sure that your dream material lives up to all of its promise? We spoke to both Thomas Dinesen and Matt Knight from Roger Hyde Limited to see if we could establish some helpful guidelines for making sure that your Dinesen floors are as good as they possibly can be.

Left to Right: Alan Cristea Gallery - Before © Joseph Asghar; Matthew Knight, Roger Hyde Limited; Alan Cristea Gallery - After © Joseph Asghar - all images courtesy RHL

Part 1: Design Stage

Both Dinesen, through their Heritage service and Roger Hyde have their own design stage services that are specifically aimed at helping designers. Roger Hyde provide hands-on advice through site visits and consultations to measure foot traffic, room moisture levels and to check access and dimensions so that the individual needs of the project can be assessed and addressed at an early stage.

Matthew Knight has a few general tips that can save time and aggravation when considering the parameters of any project at the outset:

  • Ensure that the climate of the site is suitable - as with any natural wood product, a high ambient moisture content will cause the wood to expand and move.

  • The long board lengths are one of the main reasons Dinesen is chosen and yet the setting out of the boards is often not given enough consideration and sometimes the original floor layout cannot be accommodated because of access or logistics.

  • Natural wood will always adapt to the relative temperature and humidity of the room, expanding during the summer and contracting in the winter. Suitable details need to be allowed for to accommodate the necessary tolerances for board expansion including around any penetrations through the boards such as with handrail spindles or radiator pipes.

  • Underfloor heating can be installed beneath Dinesen planks, but it needs to be properly done.

Part 2: On-site

Once the order is placed, this is where experience and a solid working relationship are imperative. Not only do the long lead-in times (which can be up to a few months) have the potential to complicate projects, but delays caused by other trades can have knock-on effects.

Matthew's top tips for a successful installation are simple:

  • Keep design changes to a minimum but where they are unavoidable, make sure that everyone is kept in the loop - effective lines of communication are essential and this is where good working relationships between manufacturer, installer and principal contractor will prove invaluable.

  • Keep in mind the timescales required for drying as any post or ex-contract works (such as kitchen installations) will only be able to commence once the floor is properly finished.

  • Protection - suitable and adequate protection is crucial to ensuring that the floor withstands the frantic final weeks / months of the finishing trades that will be completing their works after the floor is done.

Left to Right: Dinesen Soap; Bacons Lane - image © Ryan von Ruben / Harris Calnan

Part 3: Post-Completion

Dinesen is very particular about the products that are used to maintain the floors and even produce their own range of soaps so that nothing is left to chance. Thomas Dinesen explains: "To make sure our customers end up with the best possible result, we only recommend maintenance products which we can vouch for. Therefore, we have also developed our own Dinesen Floor Soaps especially for Dinesen planks, which form a protective soap membrane and ensure a resistant surface."

Matthew Knight agrees: "Maintenance is critical which is why Roger Hyde also offer a full, managed maintenance service. Even as a minimum, we meet with the people responsible for cleaning the floors and make sure that they are up to speed on what to do (and what not to do) and which Dinesen products to use so that clients get years of enjoyment from their floors.

Mirror House: Completed by Harris Calnan, image © James Smith / Harris Calnan

With these tips and pointers, hopefully we have shown how Dinesen can be a material for today rather than for "one day". And with the array of specialist advice available from Dinesen, Roger Hyde Limited and Harris Calnan, there are even more reasons to trust that the outcome will be every bit as outstanding as it can possibly be. If you have enjoyed this article please subscribe to our blog and join us next time for more Trade Secrets!

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