Decorate with Architectural Salvage

living room
Rethink old house parts to expand your decorating palette. These 20 room designs showcase architectural salvage as fetching furnishings, arresting artworks, and as distinctive displays for vintage collections.

Primitive Headboard

A pair of doors, likely from a barn or an outbuilding, rise as a standout headboard. Their weathered finish, rusty hardware, and substantial silhouettes make a period-perfect statement. Before using worn architectural elements near sleeping or eating areas, sand away chipping paint. Seal all surfaces with a clear sealer to ensure the piece retains its patina but won't shed any paint chips or wood slivers.

Progressive Movement

Even the most ancient of salvaged architectural materials have a place in contemporary spaces. Old-world corbels complete with finial details fashion a digital workstation. The corbels, which likely once supported some type of roof or overhang, handily prop up a glass desktop. Duplicating this idea? Make sure you secure the corbels into wall studs so they support the weight of the desktop, office equipment, and desk decor.

In Step

Distressed finishes -- be they artificially applied or naturally occurring -- visually connect architectural salvage and antique furnishings. Here, a timeworn mantelpiece subs in as a faux fireplace; a decorative trim piece and a rusty iron frieze heighten interest on the wall behind an iron bedstead; and a paneled shutter stands tall atop a nightstand to support a vintage sconce.

Door to Table

A vintage door converts to a handsome dining table when equipped with a trestle base. A whitewash finish unites the new and old elements.

Window to the World

Take time to think about how you can best revive a time-tired architectural element. Turn it this way and that until inspiration strikes. A vintage half-arch window becomes even more appealing when used to frame a quartet of faded maps. To get a similar look, adhere maps to glass panes that remain in the frame. Missing glass panes? Mount maps, photos, or meaningful motifs on cardboard or glass pieces cut to fit the window openings.

Vintage Reflection

Think of a multipane window as a framework for all sorts of updates. Tall and graceful, this arched window converts to a focal-point mirror that suits the entryway's elegant leanings. One piece of mirrored glass was cut to fit the window and secured to the back of the window frame. Opt for mirrored glass with an antiqued finish to give the newly constructed piece an authentically aged look.

Modern Adaptations

Antique doors replete with rusty grilles and worn green paint enclosing a bedroom doorway evoke images of medieval entries and secret garden gates. A vintage baluster shines as a bright light thanks to a lamp-wiring kit, some expert drilling, and a simple white drum shade. An old column beefs up the window trim.

Window Displays

Beautifully patterned leaded-glass windows and stained-glass panels deserve a place in the limelight. There's no easier way to display the artistic elements than by suspending them in a window using screw eyes and cup hooks. At first glance, these two decorative windows appear to be inset into the trim because they nearly match the size of the built-in windows. But smaller windows would work just as nicely to give the existing windows a fresh point of view.

Perfect Pair

Grab up matching pairs of any type of salvaged architectural element. You'll find that having multiples of similar objects considerably stretches your design options, a point handily illustrated by these two columns, which fashionably frame a front door while performing as pedestals for antique garden ornaments.

Cozy Character

Reclaim an ornate mantel and use it to amplify your bedstead's presence. This bed's tufted headboard fits snugly inside the fireplace surround's opening to fashion a juxtaposition of soft and hard. An exhibit of equestrian-related gear and imagery echoes the look of displays traditionally arranged on and around a fireplace.

Architectural Knickknacks

Collect fetchingly figured fence and furniture finials and wood and iron brackets to display as sculptures in bookcases, on mantels, and atop columns. Here, weathered brackets and finials of different shapes and sizes provide rustic counterpoints to displays of fine china, transferware, and ironstone pieces.

Crowning Glory

You don't need an entire mantel or a complete fireplace surround to create a statement. This carved mantelpiece -- once part and parcel of a larger mantel -- steps up as a good-looking bathroom furnishing. It provides an interesting shape, a mirror that accommodates primping, and shelves for displaying antique bottles, pieces of coral, and a vintage vessel.

New Media

It's always a challenge to place a television set in a vintage-style family room. The screen needs to be seen when a favorite program's on tap but hidden during non-TV hours. These homeowners met the challenge by building a media cabinet from an old cupboard door, which they hinged to side panels. Raised embellishments, a crown-molding cap, and a beveled mirror give the modern media cabinet the look of an antique mantelpiece.

Applied Character

Decorative moldings -- whether used to trim walls, windows, or doorways -- offer a wealth of design opportunities. Here, built-up moldings add sophisticated substance to an expansive stretch of mirror. If your mirror is already attached to the wall, simply use a heavy-duty adhesive to adhere recycled trim pieces directly to the mirror. Miter corner joints to create the look of a finely made frame.

The Power of One

Just one component in a much larger fireplace surround, this cast-iron arch supplies a striking silhouette that captures attention. The arch once likely housed a small door, but now it acts as an art piece that showcases a pretty flower-filled pitcher.

Expanded Presence

Exterior architectural elements, such as salvaged shutters, pediments, corbels, and porch columns, come inside to further a vintage look. These narrow shutters align along the window trim to add old-timey texture to the wall and make the window appear larger than its dimensions.

Casement Cachet

Salvage multipane window frames with old-fashioned forms to use as fab foundations for staging sentimental exhibits of ancestral portraits, family photos, botanical prints, or souvenir postcards. Hang glassless window frames by screwing two screws into wall studs or wall anchors; set the frame on the protruding screws. Use removable adhesive or decorative tacks to mount a variety of quick-change collages. (You may want to use copies of the photos to preserve the originals.)

Puzzled Together

These homeowners saw a whole much greater than the pile of salvaged house parts awaiting their creative hands. Victorian Era porch columns complete with spandrel details stand as posters for the bed frame; a flat door becomes the headboard; and a sidelight inset with tin ceiling panels crafts a mighty fine footboard. Pieces of reclaimed wood create a canopy that completes the bedstead's timelessly appealing four-poster silhouette.

Vintage Kitchen

Vestiges from residences past give this kitchen period panache. Tin tiles deck the ceiling with vintage texture and shine. Metal tiles and distressed beaded board fashion a distinctive backsplash. Shapely corbels distinguish the island while supporting a family-friendly breakfast bar.

Renewed Purpose

Pediments provide classical embellishment on exterior facades and fine furniture pieces. Salvaged versions, like the one displayed above this fireplace, endure as perennially pleasing artworks, thanks to their intricate carvings and noteworthy forms. Another interesting shape pops up in this living room: The coffee table is crafted from a salvaged window boasting a porthole-like form.

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