Terunobu Fujimori's Charred Cedar House is clad in charred boards, which have been treated with an ancient Japanese technique that seals the wood, traditionally cedar, against rain and rot. The primitive and painstaking process is said to protect wood against rain, rot, and insects for 80 years. It also gives the exteriors a reptilian texture that’s as striking as it is practical—which is why a host of contemporary architects have continued the tradition, adapting it for multiple types of wood.
Fujimori is known for cladding exteriors with charred cedar, but in this Austrian vacation retreat, he adorns the wall surrounding an interior fireplace with an arresting composition of scorched wood strips.
Native New Yorkers, the Merola family have long held a tradition of spending summers in Rhode Island. When they learned the costs of renovating their existing cottage would significantly outweigh the benefits, they instead opted to build new. The result—a distinctively modernist box structure clad in milled slats of charred, brushed, and oiled cypress—sits nestled within the marshy landscape of Quonochontaug Pond.
Architect Thor Olav Solbjør doesn’t see wood as just another material choice, he sees it as a way to “communicate with the surroundings.” Tasked with building a 750-square-foot addition to a country home in Jar, Norway, set amid pine forests, his team at SAAHA turned to charred cedar, a traditional Japanese building material created with charcoal, to create the midnight-black cedar exterior. Leftover wood from the owner’s farm was charred with charcoal and then stained with ink to add additional depth and a rich tone.
In the shadow of Mount McKinley, amid Alaska’s meadows and icy streams, a former teacher and a four-time Iditarod winner built a modernist cabin clad with charred cedar exterior that basks in the warm sun.
Shino and Ken Mori's Wabi House in Southern California is named after the traditional Japanese principle of wabi-sabi, or beauty in imperfection—an ideal upheld by their choice to apply charred cedar to their home's exterior. After entering through the front door, visitors pass over the large koi pond on a cast-concrete footbridge chiseled to look like stone.
Though it's technically not charred, the knotty cedar cladding of this modern Venice Beach bungalow gets the look of charred cedar at a fraction of the cost thanks to a double coat of ebony stain from Timber Pro UV.