Right now I’m interested in salvage materials. I just finished writing an article about a house in ‘Sconset that was originally two small early cottages built in the 1800s. They were nothing special until they were moved and attached and made into one. Then in the 1960s some pretty bad renovations were done to it, like replacing old windows for vinyl ones! I guess the Historic District Commission was asleep at the time, or maybe wasn’t yet established. At any rate, new owners hired the firm of Angus MacLeod Designs to restore and renovate it in 2011 and they masterfully salvaged and repurposed all the really good old material for the new house.
While writing about this project I was introduced to a wonderful resource that anyone within striking distance of Boston should know about. It’s the Restoration Resources store in Boston. Angus MacLeod describes it as “an art gallery of beautiful salvaged items” where you’ll find early doorknobs, interesting hinges, balusters, old doors and windows and such. Now that I’m working on my new book, Salvage Style, this is my next “go to” place.I’m working on this book in partnership with Country Living magazine. While looking through past issues it has become obvious that salvage used to go hand in hand with country style. However, over the past few years I find that salvage is more interesting when teamed with modern. Salvage is usually thought of as pieces or remnants of items that come out of old houses.
Glass doorknobs, for example are thought of as vintage. They add character to a new door. Early claw foot bathtubs represent another vintage find. Wide, pine floorboards are in demand as is barn siding. But all of these vintage or salvaged items are now being reproduced. I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, it makes it easier and more affordable, sometimes, to have exactly what you want for a renovation or remodeling job, but is it just the look you’re after? I feel like it isn’t as good as the original both in construction and looks. But maybe I’m wrong. Somehow I don’t think I’d be so mad about the Italian porcelain oval doorknobs I found at an outdoor flea market in Florence, Italy if I’d bought repros of these items from Restoration Hardware. It’s a philosophical question I’m still without a definitive answer.
Salvage style could be described as “a little rough around the edges.” If it’s manufactured vintage style it’s too perfect. I love imperfect things. This is what gives it character. When I make something by hand, a quilt, a decoupage box, I like to see slight imperfections. Salvaged items have history attached to them A child’s desk with initials carved into the underside of the lift-up top is a charming surprise to find. I was introduced to a couple that renovated a house for Country Living magazine. They found an old kilim rug with a hole in it. “It provided a conduit for computer cords,” they said. You have to take advantage of the flaws in found objects and make them work for you. In Key West, a friend unearthed old glass bottles with a lilac and pale green tint. They line his kitchen shelves and each holds a fresh flower. When not in use they just catch the light and look lovely.
Barn siding is being gobbled up as barns are being destroyed. But even if you can’t have the siding, you can be inspired by the color. Faded red milk paint is available and great for painting furniture found at a yard sale.
Great doors!! If only I could find them in a Salvage yard.
My inspiration still comes from the very place I live. Nantucket exudes beauty; in it’s buildings, it’s beaches, it’s conservation land, its streetscapes. I sit at my computer for several hours and then take a walk around my neighborhood to revive myself.
Since I live in the historic district it’s easy to do this. I’m always surprised to find a house I’d overlooked or a new addition or some subtle changes taking place. The lighting changes with the seasons and that makes everything look different as well. Right now I’ve been following the transformation of the old Nantucket Bake Shop on Orange Street into it’s former Federal style building. It will soon become a yarn shop. Check it out when you’re riding out of town. Pull over and walk up the steps to read the history of the building and what Matt Fee is doing to it as described on a printed sheet in the window. Talk about restoration! This little building is slowly transforming and becoming a standout in the neighborhood. I’ll post a picture next week.