23 Fresh Ideas for Decorating with Architectural Salvage

white farmhouse bath with sliding barn door
Photo: Jason Donnelly

Pieces from old houses and buildings can bring a sense of character and history to modern homes. Look for interesting reclaimed elements at flea markets and shops dedicated to architectural salvage. Then use one of these ideas for repurposing salvaged items as furnishings, eye-catching art, or distinctive decor.

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Salvaged Fireplace Mantel

slate blue dining room with antique features
Nathan Kirkman

Incorporate architectural salvage into your decor to bring a sense of history to a newer home. In this dining room, an antique mantel surrounds the more contemporary-looking firebox, adding timeless charm. The worn finish and carved details contribute contrasting texture that stands out against deep blue-gray walls.

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Antique Corbel Desk

eclectic office with glass antique desk and zebra print rug
Michael Partenio

Even the most ancient of salvaged architectural materials can have a place in contemporary spaces. In this office, old-world corbels with finials fashion a digital workstation. The corbels, which likely once supported some type of roof or overhang, handily prop up a glass desktop. If you plan to duplicate this idea, make sure you secure the corbels into wall studs, so they can support the weight of the desktop.

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Salvaged Outdoor Seating

Wrap around porch with Dutch door and clap board siding
Jeff Herr

Architectural salvage can add character both indoors and outside. Here, a pair of wooden theater seats form unexpected outdoor seating on this wraparound porch. Throw pillows updated with weather-resistant fabric soften the seating.

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Reclaimed Wood Doors

white farmhouse bath with sliding barn door
Jason Donnelly

Reclaimed doors, rescued from aged homes or barns, often showcase beautiful panel details and chipped-paint finishes. For an easy way to hang an old door in an existing frame, attach the salvaged piece to a sliding track above the entry. This allows you to showcase the door's timeworn beauty, even if the original hardware is damaged or no longer functions properly.

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Primitive Headboard

white bedroom with antique headboard
Paul Dyer

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

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Salvaged Bedroom Decor

cream bedroom with blue and pink accents
Laurie Black

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

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Architectural Salvage Table

white dining room with blue accents and rustic wooden table
Kim Cornelison

Think beyond an item's original purpose to create one-of-a-kind furnishings. In this dining room, a vintage door was added to a trestle base to form a handsome dining table. To unite the new and old elements, cover both pieces with the same whitewash finish.

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Window Wall Decor

airy bedroom with canopy and antique accents
Kim Cornelison

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, for example, can become 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.

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Salvaged Window Mirror

neutral colored entryway with wooden table and antique mirror
John Bessler

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

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Antique Doors and Trim

rustic antique doors opening in white bedroom
Michael Partenio

Salvaged doors and other architectural elements can set the foundation for a room styled with antiques. Search for antique doors with rusty grilles and worn paint to stand in for basic wooden doors in a bedroom or living area. To dress up window trim, consider attaching salvaged items, such as columns, with interesting carved details.

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Antique Window Displays

white bedroom with dark wood headboard and yellow accents
John Bessler

Beautifully patterned leaded-glass windows and stained-glass panels deserve a place in the limelight. Display these artistic elements 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 decorative windows would work just as nicely.

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Architectural Salvage Columns

open front door with rustic decorative statues
John Bessler

When searching for salvaged architectural elements, try to always grab matching pairs. You'll find that having multiples of similar objects considerably stretches your design options. That point is handily illustrated by these two columns, which fashionably frame a front door while performing as pedestals for antique garden ornaments.

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Salvaged Mantel Headboard

equestrian themed bedroom with plaid accents
Michael Garland

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

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Architectural Knickknacks

living room with shelves of antiques and statue on coffee table
John Bessler

Collect interesting fence and furniture finials or wood and iron brackets to display as sculptures. These unique pieces work well on bookcases, mantels, and columns. Here, weathered brackets and finials of different shapes and sizes provide rustic counterpoints to displays of fine china, transferware, and ironstone pieces.

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Salvaged Mantel Piece

antique mirror with shelf of glass bottles
Edmund Barr

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 good-looking bathroom shelving. It provides an interesting shape, a mirror that accommodates primping, and shelves for displaying antique bottles, pieces of coral, and a vintage vessel.

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Antique Media Cabinet

sitting room with elegant chandelier and wall sconces
Emily Followill

It can be a challenge to blend a modern television into a vintage-style family room. Ideally, the screen should be easily viewable when needed, 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.

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Recycled Mirror Frame

white bathroom with antique mirror frame
Edmund Barr

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

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Salvaged Pieces

rustic antique wooden table and decorative arch with flower bouquet
Laurie Black

Bits and pieces of architectural salvage can be just as interesting as the entire original object. This cast-iron arch, just one component in a much larger fireplace surround, supplies a striking silhouette that captures attention. The arch once likely housed a small door, but now it acts as an art piece that frames a pretty flower-filled pitcher.

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Exterior Architectural Elements

dining room with wooden shutters and antique table
Laurie Black

Repurpose exterior architectural elements, such as salvaged shutters, pediments, corbels, and porch columns, inside to further a vintage look. Apply them in similar places as you would normally see outdoors to riff on their original function. 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.

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Salvaged Window Frames

wooden decorative table and mirror with typewriter and lamp
Laurie Black

Look for multipane window frames with old-fashioned forms to use as a frame for ancestral portraits, family photos, botanical prints, or souvenir postcards. Hang glassless window frames by screwing them 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. (Consider using copies of the photos so you can preserve the originals.)

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Architectural Bed Frame

four poster antique bed with dressing table
Jay Wilde

Salvaged house parts can come together to form a bed with antique details and unique character. 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 the footboard. Pieces of reclaimed wood create a canopy that completes the bed's timeless four-poster silhouette.

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Vintage Kitchen Accents

modern kitchen with reflective ceiling and stained glass window
Jay Wilde

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

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Renewed Salvage

warm tones living room with round coffee table
Anthony Masterson

Pediments provide classical embellishment on exterior facades and fine furniture pieces. Salvaged versions, like the one displayed above this fireplace, endure as 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 with a porthole-like form.

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