Home Decor | Reclaiming the Soul of a House with Salvaged Materials
The KitchenThe most daunting piece of our home renovation was the kitchen. Trying to configure modern conveniences into the narrow rear of the house was a logistical challenge, and more than one contractor suggested that we budget $75,000 for this phase alone. Sticking to our credo, we went to Nor’East Architectural Antiques in South Hampton, New Hampshire, and found a gorgeous salvaged butler’s pantry with glass-paned top cabinets and long counters that would fit the space perfectly. Hours of stripping, sanding, and repainting–and much patience– ultimately turned the cabinets into the room’s centerpiece. The total cost (excluding labor): $3,200.
Next challenge: a 1980s blue terra-cotta tile floor. At Urbanminers in Hamden, Connecticut, we found antique wide-pine floorboards that had been pulled from a nearby demolition project. These rough pieces were originally used as subflooring, a common practice in their day. With heavy sanding and polishing, they yielded luscious golden-hued wood with natural knots and a gorgeous grain–all for much less per linear foot than new wood floors would have cost.
The bonus? All these savings let us install white marble counters and a commercial-grade stove, giving the room an industrial farmhouse vibe for a fraction of the costs we were quoted.
The Powder Room
I’ve always been charmed by the ornate cast-plaster ceilings in historic homes from the 18th and 19th centuries. In the 20th century, tin ceiling tiles came into fashion–they were less expensive to produce than plaster–but in mint condition they’re now fairly costly. I scoured the Brimfield Antique Show for intricate tin tiles with a bit more wear and tear to them. With a gentle scrubbing and some high-gloss paint, they transformed our powder room. We nailed the tin to the ceiling, surrounded it with a thick crown molding to hold the metal in place, and painted the walls dark gray for contrast. We hung a small crystal chandelier in the room and chose dark, outdoor slate tiles for the floor, bringing in more natural materials without the cost of granite or marble. The overall look brings to mind a covered patio–a small retreat with a touch of elegance and whimsy.
For a low-cost, high-impact window treatment in the guestroom, I designed a curved valance and asked a carpenter to cut it for us out of scrap wood. This room had multiple doors connecting with adjacent areas, so we closed off several of them and in place of one installed an antique leaded-glass window from New England Demolition & Salvage in New Bedford, Massachusetts, providing additional light and character. The plaster walls could have stood a refinishing, but we chose to leave the bumps and waves alone; they help retain that antique feel, and occasionally we spot an interesting new pattern in the walls.
The chandelier in this room looks old, but it was really just a hand-me-down we customized with a bit of black spray paint. Through several renovation projects, I’ve made good use of the design adage that you should always have one black item (whether that’s a piece of furniture or some other element) in every room. Although it’s something you’d traditionally find in a dining room, this fixture adds a dramatic element, and when dimmed at night casts beautiful shadows and a welcome calm.