Testimony: Emeline Poulain and interior wood cladding trend
Émeline Poulain, architect in Charente-Maritime: "Interior wall cladding is much more than a fashion statement!
The outside is coming inside! Wall cladding in living areas is a major trend in the interior design market. Aesthetics, acoustics, durability, bio-sourced... There are many advantages and more and more people are adopting them. This is the case of Émeline Poulain, architect in Mortagne-sur-Gironde in France (17), who experimented with interior cladding for her own house and came across the Ducerf group. She chose thermos-treated ash cladding for 15 m2 of interior wall in her house. A successful experiment that she will propose more and more to her customers... Meet her!
Has the use of wood been part of your work for a long time?
Émeline Poulain: I've always had this aspiration towards more environmentally friendly construction. Right from the start of my career, I worked for four or five years on the timber frame system. At the same time, my husband and I started a project to build a wood-frame house with a straw filling and an interior earth coating. This is how I really got into the world of bio-sourced building. In the autumn, I will be opening my own architectural studio to develop a committed and environmentally friendly architecture.
What is the story behind your house building project here in Charente-Maritime?
Émeline Poulain: We first found this plot of land with a breathtaking view of the estuary. We immediately appreciated the ever-changing light, it was magical! We are in a Natura 2000 zone, in a “Bâtiments de France” area. So I immediately set myself the guideline of trying to carry out a project that was as virtuous as possible. It took us 3 years to complete this project. With 37 cm thick straw bales, an interior earth coating and a ventilated lime coating on the outside, we wanted to provide good insulation and humidity regulation.
"I immediately saw the light that the material took on".
How did the idea of interior wood cladding come about?
Emeline Poulain: With the estuary, we have a very linear landscape. We also have a sloping site. The idea was therefore to modulate this horizontal line and create different frames according to the use of the interior spaces. From the entrance to the house, we have this wall that crosses the living room and gives a direction towards the open sea, the Estuary, the outside. We wanted this interior wall to be very present, marked. We looked for materials to create this continuity between the interior and the exterior, and I quickly chose wood cladding, which gives a real impression of warmth and comfort.
That's when you met the Ducerf group...
Émeline Poulain: Yes, that's right, at the beginning, it was the result of an internet search to find an exterior cladding. We were indeed looking for a product adapted to the environment. We are on the edge of the estuary and we are subject to a lot of bad weather, with rain, storms and rather salty air. The idea was to use a wood that could withstand a certain amount of ageing without being pre-patinated. I quickly got in touch with Jean-Philippe Laubreton, a salesman from the Ducerf group, who came to see the site, showed me the material and presented its characteristics. I didn't know that this product could also be installed inside. I immediately saw the light that the material took on, a magnificent colour... I said to myself that this was the solution I needed!
"Showing that there are alternatives to exotic woods”
What are the advantages of this solution?
Émeline Poulain: First of all, it's ash cladding, a local species that I particularly appreciate. What I also liked was to show that there are local alternatives to exotic woods. I consider that today, as an architect, my job, especially with private individuals, is to go beyond the image and to show other materials. At the time, some professionals told me not to choose ash because it was a dry wood that might not resist temperature variations. But with the thermos treated process used by Ducerf, the wood fibre used is well preserved. So I decided to trust the salesman. He played a big part in my decision. You could feel that he knew what he was talking about, that he was proud to present this product. Our discussions were very interesting.
So you decided to use it indoors as well for its aesthetic appeal?
Émeline Poulain: Yes, I wanted to ensure this indoor-outdoor continuity, but at the beginning, I had no idea how I was going to materialise it. The use is indeed very different. At the moment, you can already see that the cladding has taken on a different colour inside and outside. It's a very regular cladding, the boards are laid vertically, which gives a very interesting graphic effect that is repeated from the inside to the outside. The ash, with its very pronounced grain, catches the light very well. This creates a relief effect on the sloping wall. The dark colour also contrasts perfectly with our poplar ceiling.
"We almost felt as if we weren't using wood, it was so easy!
Beyond the aesthetic interest, which was the first effect sought, what are the other properties of this interior cladding?
Émeline Poulain: From an acoustic point of view, there is no comparison with a solid wall. The lesser development of the facade created will make it possible to absorb sound a little better. The cladding, with its open-work surface, allows us to create places where the sound is trapped, especially as we have fixed a felt screen to the back of the cladding. This reduces the reverberation effect and creates a more interesting interior atmosphere.
The interest of this interior cladding is of course also its ultra-natural appearance. The process used for this Thermo treated wood is a heating process without the addition of any chemicals and without surface treatment. Like earth or straw, wood is an interesting material in itself, which does not need to be processed!
You are the one who installed this cladding inside your house. How did the job go?
Emeline Poulain: It's quite simple compared to other materials. When you have to lay plasterboard as we have done on other walls, you have to fix the rail, make strips, the surface has to be laid, plastered, sanded, painted several times, it is a lot of work. In terms of implementation, with the cladding we saved a lot of time. It was almost as if we weren't using wood, it was so easy! The product is already very well worked out, very well designed.
This ease and speed of installation also means that the extra cost of wood cladding is less than that of a product requiring several passes. When you receive the cladding, all you have to do is put in the secondary framework, the structural elements and screw it on.
"Installing this cladding is really about creating an atmosphere.”
With this new trend in interior wall cladding, do you feel that a new field of possibilities has opened up?
Émeline Poulain: Absolutely! In our house, the objective was to stay on one wall. But that made me want to go further and imagine clad walls that could be developed with modular arrangements. At home, we have recovered some additional boards to make shelves. I like playing with this materiality. When you have materials like this in your hands, it's very pleasant to imagine new things. You want to show it off. With our shelves, there was no need for any artifice to really highlight the wood. If the opportunity arises, I'd also really like to do a coffered ceiling. It would be very interesting from an acoustic point of view but also to delimit a space and give it character. By installing this cladding, you really create an atmosphere. The material also offers a lot of possibilities for furniture, such as seating elements, storage units and window frames. With this wood tinted in the mass, we can dig it and play on the relief.
Ducerf is expanding its range with a new interior cladding product, BARD 107 texture, specifically designed for interiors, with a more decorative aspect. What is your opinion as an architect?
Émeline Poulain: This will already reassure some craftsmen as it is a product specifically designed for interior cladding. As for the decorative aspect, it will undoubtedly suit certain projects. On the site of my house, I was looking more for the raw effect of the wood, hence the diversion of a cladding intended for the exterior. But for people who are looking for a more finished look, this new product will obviously be very interesting, so I'm curious to discover it!
"Now it's up to us architects to prescribe this solution!”
Will this wall cladding solution develop inside the house?
Émeline Poulain: I'm convinced of it because it's a real alternative to traditional solutions. With wood in interior cladding, you can really tell stories, different things. And wood can be combined with almost any other material. It is possible to make assemblies without making mistakes. Now it's up to us architects to prescribe these solutions, to dare to do so. Today, the interior cladding of this wall is one of the first things people notice when they come to visit the house. They find it very beautiful! There is definitely still a lot of potential to be exploited and it's more than just a fad. Because it also responds to a collective awareness of environmental issues. These are the issues of today and tomorrow!
Crédits photos : Julia Hasse