Reclaimed structural elements and furniture add vintage style to a building project – and half the fun is going on the hunt for unique items
Salvage (and reclamation) yards are full of hidden gems rescued from condemned or refurbished buildings. Upcycling these finds is a wonderful chance to reuse items that would otherwise go unloved, and the right one-off can add great character and interest to a restoration or new- build. From dainty light fittings to heavy marble fireplaces and polished floorboards, these yards are ideal sources of inspiration and materials, especially if you have a penchant for a specific historical style such as art deco or Edwardian. With amazing salvage available around the country, you’re bound to find what you are looking for if you persevere – no matter how niche your interest.
As a trend, salvage is highly accessible because you can commit to big architectural elements like kitchen cabinets and fireplaces, or stick to thoughtful little touches such as bathroom fixtures and door handles, depending on your style and budget. There is also the thrill of scouring a treasure trove such as Lassco (020 7394 2100; lassco.co.uk), which regularly offers quirky pieces, for example from the National Maritime Museum, Eton College, Harrods, Oxford University and Kew Gardens, as well as churches and institutions. Their three yards currently stock items such as a Victorian costermonger’s barrow from Old Spitalfields Market, £8,000, and Dutch hand-painted ceramic tiles, £10 each. How historical and extravagant you want to go is entirely up to you.
Deep Down Plunger Bath, £2,500, Antique Bathrooms. (01752 698 250; antiquebaths.com)
Second hand doors, window frames and brickwork are perennially in demand. Old bricks cost considerably more than new ones, and you will need to budget carefully before starting. For the extra outlay, you can find more interesting colours and textures, especially from pre-1900 handmade varieties. For your roof, you may also want to invest in unusual old tiles and slates, and vintage peg tiles are particularly sought after.
Attractive solid timber doors can be stripped and windows, especially the traditional box sash, are popular – and vital for the architectural integrity of some historic properties.
Once upon a time homeowners gleefully ripped out period features in the spirit of ‘out with the old and in with the new’. Nowadays, fittings such as floorboards and radiators are spared the skip and can command big prices on the second-hand market. Buying flooring is relatively straightforward, but you need to ensure radiators have been reconditioned to run well in a modern home. One good source of stock is The Old Radiator Company (01233 850 082; theoldradiatorcompany.co.uk), which has thousands available. Ribble Radiators (01772 794 534; ribbleradiators.co.uk) will restore and paint any cast-iron gems you have found in your chosen colour, and also offer a 10-year guarantee on top.
Furniture and accessories
Firms such as Retrouvius (020 8960 6060; retrouvius.com) and Walcot Architectural Salvage (01225 469 557; walcotarchitecturalsalvage.co.uk) spend lots of time cleaning and restoring the stock, so browsing is a relaxed experience. However, with upscale outlets, you end up paying a premium for the finesse. If it’s a bargain you’re after, you may prefer a more rough and ready yard to scour, or be prepared to do more of the restoration yourself.
Collecting is rewarding, but sadly there are fakes around, especially among reclaimed furniture. The buying and selling of salvage is protected by the Trade Descriptions Act, so if you’ve bought a reproduction when it was sold as an original then you can pursue a refund. Be warned though that in practice, this can be complicated and depends on exactly how the piece was described.
Spotting a beautiful item can be the fun part, but a tougher question is whether it is really suitable for your project. Getting too carried away can result in a jumble of styles, or look like a themed homage to a period.
Start a Fire Arts & Crafts sandstone chimney piece, £2,450, Lassco. (01772 794 534; lassco.co.uk)
NEED TO KNOW
Look out for dealers who are signed up to the Salvo Code. It offers peace of mind to buyers that items haven’t been taken from protected buildings.
Visit the Arthur Swallow antique and home show fairs (asfairs.com), and the annual Salvo Fair (salvo-fair.com).
Haggling is generally seen as acceptable, and often items aren’t formally priced in the first place, so there is plenty of scope to pick up a bargain.
Some salvage yards require a careful approach and protective gloves when picking through rusty sinks and broken windows, while others offer artful displays of their wares Forewarned is forearmed.
Cross Fit Reclaimed sandstone floor, £474 per sqm, Lapicida. (020 3012 1000, lapicida.com)
Words: Olivia Williams