Architectural Salvage: Tips for Finding and Reusing Vintage Pieces

Earth friendly architectural salvage pieces can add character and charm to your home. Here's what to look for.

Add Character and Charm with Salvaged Pieces

Architectural salvage shops cater to folks who seek to add character and charm to their homes--old or new--with focal-point pieces of architectural jewelry.

Earth-friendly salvage pieces also appeal to homeowners interested in sustainable living. Reusing an existing piece instead of purchasing something new makes salvage an eco-friendly choice. Brand-new items impact the environmental in many ways, from production to transport and distribution.

These places are a blast to browse. You'll never know what you'll find--or what creative uses you might find for your new treasure. The following pages showcase great ideas to get you started and outline important tips for salvage shoppers.

Ensure a Good Fit

Measuring is critical when an antique needs to function properly in your modern home. Doors are popular salvage items, but their dimensions can be an odd fit in modern openings. You may have to reframe the opening to make it work.

Use Decorative Columns

Columns and other architectural pieces enhance the charm of any space. The variety of styles available complement any decorating choice. Not all heirloom-quality indoor columns are suitable for holding up walls, though, so use them only decoratively. Outdoors, concrete or stone column fragments add classic appeal.

Try a Vintage Bath Accent

Vintage bath fixtures add a friendly cottage feel to any space--even a garden. Seal the drain and you've got a great new pond.

Showcase Aged Pieces

Small accent items are perfect to use as-is--the peeling-paint patina only enhances their appeal. Some pieces might contain lead; spray-paint them with a clear sealant to keep them from dropping dangerous paint chips.

Check Return Policies

Even with good measurements, it's hard to know whether a salvaged piece will work in your home. Know a store's policies in case you need to put something on hold before you buy it or need to return a less-than-perfect find.

Find Gift Ideas

Look for clever gift ideas at salvage shops, too. These rosettes--or the rustic shelf they're sitting on--are reasonably priced miniature pieces of art that would delight many homeowners.

Look for Hardware Details

Hardware--from unique locksets to hinges to drawer pulls--fills bins and counters at every salvage shop. You probably won't find enough for your entire house, so display your new treasures prominently and look for complementary modern versions to fill the rest of your hardware needs.

Put Pieces to Good Use

If you find something you love but can't find a use for it, think creatively. This old window sash, hung in a kitchen pass-through, becomes a witty room divider.

Try a Hands-On Project

For the truly clever DIYer, wonderful blends of old and new become artful furniture pieces. This new coffee table is fashioned from four old table legs connected with new molding and painted a vibrant red. A glass top keeps the handiwork in view.

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