sal­vage op­er­a­tion

The Wharf - - Property - Erica Bush Go to thev­in­tage­fridge­com­pany.com and the­ol­dra­di­a­tor­com­pany.co.uk for more in­for­ma­tion

In our sec­ond re­port from this year’s Grand De­signs Live, which took place at Ex­cel in Royal Docks ear­lier this month, the in­tro­duc­tion of an Ar­chi­tec­tural Sal­vage zone sug­gests the glo­ries of yes­ter­year cer­tainly have mo­men­tum.

Cham­pi­oning the sale and re­fur­bish­ment of res­cued pieces, it was de­signed to pro­vide show-go­ers with in­spi­ra­tion for their own projects and there was lots to see.

Vin­tage tim­ber re­frig­er­a­tors were on of­fer from The Vin­tage Fridge Com­pany, mak­ing a bold, if pricey, state­ment for the kitchen.

The Sur­rey-based firm – the only dis­trib­u­tor of its kind in the world – has nearly 200 fridges on its books rang­ing in price from £10,000 to £30,000.

It has been op­er­at­ing since 2009, helmed by John Bo­drell who be­came in­ter­ested in the mar­ket af­ter 20 years in the an­tiques trade.

“As soon as he found out about them he went a bit nuts and started buy­ing ev­ery sin­gle one of them that he could get his hands on,” said his son, Ben, who also works for the com­pany.

“He knew a lot of peo­ple in the busi­ness from dif­fer­ent coun­tries so he started to im­port them from Brazil, Ar­gentina, France and Bel­gium where they orig­i­nate.”

The firm’s vast col­lec­tion, rang­ing in era from 1880 to 1960, charts the evo­lu­tion of the re­frig­er­a­tor, stock­ing the orig­i­nal ice boxes of the mid to late 1800s through to elec­tric fridges with belt-driven mo­tors, which came to promi­nence from the 1940s.

Ben said work­ing with the orig­i­nal ice boxes – hard­wood cup­boards usu­ally made from oak or pine with in­ner lin­ings of tin or zinc, typ­i­cally in­su­lated with cork, saw­dust or news­pa­per – was par­tic­u­larly sat­is­fy­ing.

‘When you start rip­ping it back and you find news­pa­pers, it gives you the date and the age of the fridge so that’s al­ways re­ally nice to see,” said the 25-year-old.

Once sourced, the com­pany, which sells to London restau­rants like Soho House as well as cus­tomers as far afield as Hawaii, re­fur­bishes the fridges com­pletely.

“We gut the whole in­te­rior, get them back to their orig­i­nal beauty and put all new trim­mings and work­ings in­side,” said Ben.

“It’s quite be­spoke – we’ve got mir­rors in some of them, some of them have see-through glass so you can see in­side, we do wine rack­ing, we do nor­mal rack­ing, we can do any­thing that the cus­tomer wants.”

For Andy and Fiona Triplow, heat proved more at­trac­tive than cold.

Their firm, The Old Ra­di­a­tor Com­pany, has been op­er­at­ing for nearly 18 years and boasts a col­lec­tion of 3,000 cast iron ra­di­a­tors of all shapes and sizes.

“We’re so pas­sion­ate about the fact that these are 100 years old,” said Fiona, 51.

“They’re su­per qual­ity, they’ll last an­other 100 years, whereas you can­not say the same for re­pro­duc­tion.”

The com­pany changes the fit­tings on its prod­ucts so they are com­pat­i­ble to modern cen­tral heat­ing sys­tems, in a bid to de­bunk the myth that vin­tage ra­di­a­tors are harder to in­stall.

The cou­ple do not just fo­cus on heaters, how­ever, set­ting up The Vin­tage Floor Tile Com­pany six years ago af­ter spotting a niche in the mar­ket.

With both busi­nesses boom­ing, ar­chi­tec­tural sal­vage is clearly a lu­cra­tive mar­ket.

Ben Bo­drell of The Vin­tage Fridge Com­pany

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