Restoring Your Home? Go Old and Go Local
Vintage architectural materials offer value, durability and authenticity.
If you're renovating an old house, you may have weighed using original or vintage materials (claw foot bathtubs, cast iron radiators, hardware or doors) against using their modern reproductions. Using salvaged architectural materials is often the best way to go.
Why buy salvaged items when you can find an equivalent modern reproduction?First, they are economical, have stood the test and wear of time and can enhance the character of a restoration project.
Another reason to reuse materials is to "green" your project. Producing new building materials can cause environmental damage and disposing of demolition debris creates solid waste destined for dumps or landfills. Using vintage materials is an environmentally responsible and sustainable option.
Recently, the Brass Knob Backdoors Warehouse announced that it would be closing its warehouse on N St. NW. This pretty much ends brick and mortar shopping for larger salvaged architectural items in downtown D.C. Fortunately, Brass Knob Architectural Antiques on 18th St., NW in D.C.,which is not affiliated with the Backdoor Warehouse, remains open. It offers smaller-scale architectural antiques and decorative pieces including vintage hardware, lighting, mantels, stained glass and a variety of decorative items, popular with home owners, designers and decorators.
There are still store warehouse options for large-scale architectural items in the wider D.C. area. For example, Community Forklift in Edmonston, Maryland has a 34,000 square foot self-serve warehouse and Second Chance in Baltimore offers 50,000 square feet of architectural retail space.
Of course, you can find almost anything on eBay as well. If the items are offered by commercial dealers, they will often provide free shipping. But consider what would be involved in returning a claw foot bathtub that had been shipped to you! Unless it is a one-of-a-kind online find, you may be better off taking a car trip to shop at one of the architectural salvage warehouses.
Some dealers such as Caravati's Architectural Salvage in Richmond have opened an eBay store as well. So, if you see something online you think you may want, it may be worth it to take the drive, confirm that it will work for your project and bring it home. Depending on what you are shopping for, it may make sense to bring your contractor along as well.
One advantage to physically going to a warehouse is that you can see their entire stock. Many warehouses have websites, but are often only able to post selected items to provide a sense of the scope of their inventory. For many warehouses, the sheer volume of their inventory makes it impossible to include it all online.
Another advantage to shopping locally is store staff often have the skills of a general contractor themselves. They can often advise on whether something will actually work with or connect to what you have, what additional parts you may need, or tell you the proper way to install and care for an item. Often with online purchases, you get the item and then you or your contractor have to try to make it work somehow. When you go to a store, experienced staff "provide the knowledge that goes with a piece," explained Donetta George, owner of Brass Knob Architectural Antiques in D.C.
So, if you're restoring or renovating your home, consider giving vintage materials a second life. Reusing vintage materials will not only give your home a more authentic look, their already long life span is testament to their utility and durability.