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