The Workshop: Madera Trade - From Forest to Floor

A trio of enterprising childhood friends reunites in Brooklyn, where they team up to bring the business of sustainable flooring to a whole new level.

About twenty years ago in Amherst, Massachusetts, a teenage boy, Daniel Clason Höök, surprised his parents by piecing together a fully formed wooden patio for them. “I’ll do it for free,” he told them. “Just buy me the tools and materials.”

Today, sitting at a conference table in Brooklyn comprised of an iron-beamed base topped by a sanded and stained swath of a tree trunk, the true tale Daniel tells serves to illustrate his life-long passion for the woodworking trade. He and his cohorts—younger brother Mikael and partner James M. Robb—all live in Brooklyn, providing contractors with prime, sustainable woodcuts under the moniker Madera Trade. Their “forest-to-floor” products are locally manufactured just below their office/showroom on the first floor of a stout Bedford-Stuyvesant industrial building, and they proudly guarantee that their wood comes from proven, well-researched sustainable sources. Madera Trade’s careful approach creates a direct link between architects and mills, while they also use only low-toxic glues, colors and coats that are as environmentally-friendly as possible.

After just a few years of operations, Madera Trade has established itself as a go-to source for high-quality wood. Their sleek, custom stains act as subtle tone-setters in some of the finest establishments throughout Brooklyn and beyond: from the white oak flooring in Macy’s Herald Square Philosophy store to Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas’ 10-inch pine floors, not to mention some of the most impressive new home renovations in the city.

Before launching Madera Trade, Daniel and Mikael worked in international affairs, spending time in Afghanistan and South Sudan, respectively. Their third partner, James, met the Classon Höök brothers while in middle school, reconnecting later in Brooklyn. After launching the company, they hooked up with Klaas Armster, “a true mill guy, who’s been doing it for years,” says Daniel. Located in Connecticut, Armster Reclaimed Lumber Company “gets wood from iconic New York places,” James says. “From city water towers to the Domino Sugar factory site to South Street Seaport,” Armster helps the trio source product with real history in NYC. “You name it, he’s got it,” adds Daniel.

Armster supplied Madera Trade with naturally weathered reclaimed shipping palette oak that they used in portions of the wall paneling and all the flooring at 296 Manhattan Avenue in Williamsburg, a Dixon restoration. “It’s such a beautiful place,” Daniel says, citing the abode as one of Madera Trade’s finest projects. Made from discarded red and white palettes that traveled the world before being salvaged in American ports, Madera Trade’s team lightly sanded the wood, oxidized nail holes and provided other final touches in order to give it a new life. The finished look is inspired by this waterfront neighborhood’s past as a center of shipping activity. “It’s great because it has all these natural saw marks,” Daniel says. “That space could’ve just had regular white oak flooring, but it wouldn’t have been the same.”

Speaking of Brooklyn, Madera Trade has developed a special “Brooklyn Collection” of wide-plank, American white oak hardwood floors, finished with natural UV oils and stains. The set is inspired by and named after recognizable Kings County destinations like Grand Army Plaza and the Fulton Street Ferry. These products purposely have a more urban look than some of Madera Trade’s other offerings, while their monikers suggest a strong appreciation and respect for both history and tradition—two concepts the entire Madera Trade outfit hold dear—while at the same time representing fresh products, towing the cutting-edge line to meet contemporary tastes. For a more natural feel, a client will likely lean towards the Madera Trade “Raw Collection,” while timeless reclaimed wood can be found in the “Rerun Collection.”

On the other end of the design spectrum from 296 Manhattan Avenue is 132 Kane Street in Cobble Hill, another Dixon project. A historic brick townhouse, 132 Kane Street’s interior matches blackened steel and concrete elements with gallery-white walls for an industrial-chic ambiance. Madera Trade supplied the wide-plank “Fulton Ferry” flooring from their Brooklyn Collection. With a deep, black-glaze finish, the formaldehyde-free, live sawn white oak has a character all its own, hearkening back to the ferries that transported passengers across the East River before the birth of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Such a melding of Brooklyn’s history with its new DIY spirit has become Madera Trade’s calling card. “Brooklyn is a fantastic place that is growing at an incredible pace,” Daniel says. “You have people creating furniture, doing glasswork, jewelry; it’s all happening here. We never once thought of opening a showroom in Manhattan; that’s not really our thing. Brooklyn is where we got our start.”

Madera Trade’s relationship with Dixon Homes embodies the type of rapport they hope to enable with all of their clients. A joint appreciation for the neighborhoods means both companies focus on respecting the architectural history of these historic homes while seeking to give them new purpose. Dixon’s renovation work focuses on highlighting the unique stories of each home they approach through stunning design and architecture. Madera Trade’s unique aesthetic helps Dixon’s teams do so in a way that respects the environment and appeals to modern Brooklyn sensibilities.

Like Brooklyn itself, Madera Trade is growing in terms of products, clients and employees. But don’t expect the business’ broadening scope to dilute the presence of its foundational principles—hard work, strong relationships, and cutting-edge design—that have helped bring success to the brothers Clason Höök and partner Robb.

The thing that still makes them most pleased is seeing their natural woods light up a room. “If the client or architect is smiling,” Daniel says, “we are so happy with that outcome.”