Sal­vage shops of­fer sus­tain­able history

Orig­i­nal­ity and nos­tal­gia play roles in pop­u­lar­ity

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - REAL ESTATE - By Kather­ine Roth

Two of the hottest trends in home decor are sus­tain­abil­ity and au­then­tic­ity. No won­der ar­chi­tec­tural sal­vage shops are busy.

Home­own­ers love fea­tures that come with a story, says Rich El­lis, pub­lisher of Ar­chi­tec­tural Sal­vage and An­tique Lum­ber News.

“When you can point to your floor and say it came from an old shoe fac­tory in Con­necti­cut, for ex­am­ple, that’s a big at­trac­tion,” he says.

There are be­tween 500 and 700 ar­chi­tec­tural sal­vage busi­nesses across the coun­try, and busi­ness has been good, he says.

“It’s about both history and sus­tain­abil­ity,” says Made­line Beauchamp of Olde Good Things, one of the old­est ar­chi­tec­tural sal­vage busi­nesses in the coun­try, with one shop in Los An­ge­les, two retail ware­houses in Scran­ton, Penn­syl­va­nia, three stores in New York City and a flag­ship store to open soon in Mid­town Man­hat­tan.

Lorna Aragon, home editor at Martha Ste­wart Liv­ing, says peo­ple are look­ing for qual­ity and “want their homes to be orig­i­nal. And of course the whole ‘re­duce, re­use, re­cy­cle’ as­pect of things plays into it as well.”

While some items are sold just as found when they were sal­vaged from ren­o­va­tion sites, oth­ers have been mod­i­fied for home use. There are Paris street lamps re­con­fig­ured as large pen­dant lamps to hang above kitchen is­lands or in loft apart­ments, and win­dow frames from his­tor­i­cal build­ings like New York City’s Domino su­gar fac­tory or Flat­iron build­ing, now fit­ted with mir­rors to be hung on walls. Tin ceil­ing tiles from old New York build­ings are also some­times fit­ted with mir­rors, or framed and hung as is, says Beauchamp.

“One cus­tomer came in for a gar­goyle, to be in­cor­po­rated in their gar­den area,” she adds. Her cus­tomers tend to be de­sign­ers, ar­chi­tects and

those try­ing to up­date their homes with unique decor that has a sense of history.

Olde Good Things sells ev­ery­thing from vin­tage door­knobs to huge stained­glass pan­els that were once part of the Amer­i­can Air­lines ter­mi­nal at John F. Kennedy Air­port in New York. There are enor­mous chan­de­liers that once hung in a Broad­way theater, and, from the old Wal­dorf-As­to­ria Ho­tel, dishes, fire­place man­tels and the ele­gant door­frame of the his­toric ho­tel’s pres­i­den­tial suite.

Stu­art Gran­nen runs the up­scale Ar­chi­tec­tural Ar­ti­facts in Chicago, which deals in rare items fa­vored by restau­rants, bars and ho­tels. “Th­ese days, in­di­vid­u­als might have one re­ally great cen­ter­piece item and live with that,” he says. “The days when some­one would come in and buy 50 door­knobs are done.”

Most of his clients, he says, are busi­nesses look­ing for huge, beau­ti­ful coun­ters, show­cases, con­soles or back bars.

“When I sal­vage things, it might be the whole fa­cade of a theater, or a gi­ant chan­de­lier,” he says.

But Aragon coun­ters that items like vin­tage plumb­ing, sinks and tubs con­tinue to be pop­u­lar.

In ad­di­tion to ar­chi­tec­tural el­e­ments, sal­vaged lum­ber is also a hot item in many sal­vage shops, some­times trans­formed into things like din­ing ta­bles, ready-made, cus­tom-or­dered or sold as is.

“The an­tique lum­ber side of things is very strong,” says El­lis, for ta­ble tops and other decor el­e­ments.

An­tique bricks and pav­ing stones are also be­ing re­pur­posed for, say, a dec­o­ra­tive wall.

“Things like those won­der­ful old wide floor­boards and barn siding have been pop­u­lar for some time,” notes Aragon.

El­lis traces this history of ar­chi­tec­tural sal­vage to the 1960s, and says it has been grow­ing slowly but steadily ever since but re­ally be­came main­stream in the 1990s.

While the first gen­er­a­tion of ar­chi­tec­tural sal­vage busi­ness own­ers is start­ing to re­tire and close, a new gen­er­a­tion is step­ping in, he says.

“That de­sire for el­e­ments with a sense of history and a great story be­hind them is not go­ing away any­time soon,” says El­lis.


An as­sort­ment of chan­de­liers at Ar­chi­tec­tural Ar­ti­facts in Chicago.


A sal­vaged door­frame from the Wal­dorf-As­to­ria Ho­tel’s pres­i­den­tial suite at Olde Good Things in New York City.


Vin­tage door­knobs are a rel­a­tively easy way to add a per­sonal de­sign touch to homes.

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