Reduce, reuse, restore: Luke Ramsey takes what’s old and makes it new again

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Photo: Christian Hommel Photo: Christian Hommel

In Luke Ramsey’s line of work, it’s all about striking a balance between form and function. “I aim for our creations to look as if they have both been standing there for 200 years and will be going strong for 200 more,” he said. Ramsey is the founder of Ramsey Restoration, a company that transforms old structures (like log cabins or barns) into useable spaces. Based out of Wingina, the company has had projects everywhere from Nelson and Rockbridge counties to Smith Mountain Lake. His favorite, though, is the cabin at Wineberry Farm, south of Charlottesville. Ramsey dismantled an old Nelson County cabin that was facing demolition and brought it to the farm, where it was positioned against an old stone chimney from a previous cabin. “We then added on a post and beam kitchen using framing from an old farm house that was left exposed on the interior of the kitchen,” Ramsey said. And he kept it local: Even the cabin’s oak rafters were harvested and sawn within 10 miles of the project.

How many people are part of the team at Ramsey Restoration? I currently have two employees helping me full-time.

How’d you get into this line of work? My father was a Historic Restoration Specialist/Building Contractor in business for himself for 45 years. I was exposed to this sort of work from birth as the 18th century home that I was born in was constantly under construction and I went to work with my father from a very early age.

Are you from the area originally? How’d you end up here? Yes, I was born, weighed on the post office scale, and raised in Howardsville, Virginia.

Describe your aesthetic in five words or less. Rustic, historic, classic, recycled, restored.

What about restoration appeals to you over creating something entirely new? The old buildings have so much character. They all have a story to tell. Knowing each piece of lumber, stone, and brick was formed by hand by someone over a century ago, it really makes me appreciate our materials much more than what most buy new to build with.

What would you say is your “specialty”? I would say that relocating and restoring the old log cabins is my specialty. We can dismantle an old log cabin, move it to a new location, put it back together and finish it out to make it look as if it had been there all along. This gives the old cabins another chance, literally preserving our collective history.

What’s the first thing you ever made? I would build models of the cabins that my father was planning to build for his clients. I still have one of them that our youngest son is almost old enough to play with.

What’s the process like when a client comes to you? Does someone come to you with an idea and you run with it? Or is it more of a collaboration? It really varies, every project is different. We have built cabins for people who gave me very loose guidelines that wanted me to design and create as I thought best, and we have worked with clients who had a distinct vision already in mind, were present daily, happy, and excited to be involved.

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