The Art of Rejuvenating
r •ju´•v •n te
to bring back to youthful strength, appearance, etc., to make more vigorous, dynamic, and effective
When wrecking balls cleared street-scapes to make way for urban renewal in the 1960s and 1970s, many wondered where did all the Old World craftsmanship go? Armed with a something-old-something-renewed mantra, urban archaeologists took the initiative to rescue treasures from rubble and landfills, stockpile them in warehouses and back lots, and encourage architects and interior designers to integrate recycled style into modern day lives. In the ensuing years, a myriad of stained glass windows, exotic wooden mantels, crystal chandeliers, pressed tin ceilings, cast iron tubs and classical columns have been thoughtfully repurposed to enhance modern homes with architectural integrity and imbue spaces with romance and nostalgia.
Today architectural salvage is also considered an earth-friendly design solution that appeals to our Green sensibilities. New building products and improved energy efficiency continue to capture headlines as we collectively search for ways to reduce carbon craters. All these advances are to be applauded since they tame the misuse of energy and focus on sustainability. Surprisingly, the greenest of all building and design solutions lies within our existing urban infrastructure. Architectural salvage saves craftsmanship from landfills and embodies tremendous kinetic energy in their already built state.
In With The Old
I think the winter months are the perfect time of year to tackle DIY improvement projects around the home. Stroll through your favorite antique venues and you’ll quickly discover that architectural salvage has a way of tempting your imagination to run wild. Some of my favorite rejuvenation projects for reclaimed items include:
- Windows: hanging old sashes, leaded glass, and stained glass windows as art pieces
- Doors: using vintage wooden doors and barn door track hardware to create a pantry door
- Lighting: replacing standard light fixtures with an antique crystal chandelier
- Millwork: swapping a ho hum mantel for an intricately carved antique version
- Floors: installing vintage ceramic tiles in a foyer
- Ceilings: using vintage pressed tin ceiling tiles for a kitchen backsplash
- Hardware: upgrading door, cabinet and furniture knobs and pulls with vintage varieties
- Plumbing: replacing standard sinks with vintage porcelain sinks
- Found Objects: displaying columns, statuary, fences, gates and fountains in gardens and outdoor living spaces
Do Your Homework
A wide selection of architectural salvage is sold at antique stores, flea markets, yard sales and on the Internet. I’m guilty of falling head over heels for an object, gleefully paying asking price, enthusiastically carting the object home, daydreaming all the way of how the item will suit my decor and discovering that my great idea really wasn’t so great after all. To avoid this heartbreak, I suggest you do some planning and research before you purchase architectural salvage and embark on your project. Tape measures, sketches, and Smartphone snapshots are the best tools!
1. For a treasure trove of design ideas, pick up a copy of Salvage Secrets Design & Decor: Transform Your Home with Reclaimed Materials by Joanne Palmisano, which was published by W.W. Norton & Company earlier this year. The book features 350 photographs and step-by-step instructions on how to work with reclaimed materials.
2. There are many knowledgeable architectural salvage dealers around the country who have been helping designers and homeowners with projects. Their expertise is as priceless as the objects they sell. Feel free to explain your design intentions to the dealers. They can offer suggestions and helpful hints on how to make your vision a reality.
3. To find an architectural salvage dealer near you, search the Internet and ask design professionals for recommendations. Yankee Magazine provides a comprehensive listing of dealers located throughout New England.
4. For a listing of architectural salvage dealers beyond New England, Period Homes offers a listing.
5. Most designers I know in the New England area, always point me to Aardvark Antiques in Newport, Rhode Island. Aardvark Antiques was established in 1969 by Arthur Grover and quickly became a major source of architectural and decorative elements to architects, interior decorators, landscape designers, special event artists, the amusement/ entertainment business and the film and theater industry. Aardvark Antiques has over 65,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor display areas and features stained glass, grand iron gates and fencing, mantels and lighting fixtures, as well as their own line of bronze home and garden furnishings.
Jay Grover-Silvestri, who works closely with Arthur Grover managing Aardvark Antiques says, “In our opinion there is nothing more enjoyable to a builder or DIY’ers than adding to their project an architectural element from the past. Not only does it create a conversation piece but it also pays homage to the history of art and architecture.”
Creating a Portal in a Federal Home
Architect John Grosvenor and I are currently rejuvenating an 1811 Federal Home in Newport, RI. To adapt the home for a modern lifestyle, we removed an awkward three-storey addition and designed a two-storey cathedral living space for a new kitchen and dining room. The addition borrows style cues from the Greek Revival period so the home appears as though the addition naturally evolved in the 1860s like other homes in Newport’s Historic Hill neighborhood.
To create a unique transition between the early 19th century home and the new addition, we plan to install an antique beveled leaded glass transom window that was originally designed for a 18th century home on Blackstone Boulevard in Providence, RI. The eight-foot-wide transom window will be accentuated by a pair of antique beveled leaded glass side lights. When you are seated at the dining room table, you will be able to admire the portal that captures the elegance of the era and lends the space distinct sparkle and drama.
Most importantly, our home will be graced by the extraordinary craftsmanship of yesteryear.
To read more about this project visit www.homesofthebrave.wordpress.com