Decorating with Architectural Salvage

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful," wrote 19th-Century tastemaker William Morris.

Everything old becomes new again when repurposing and integrating architectural salvage in your interior space. Architectural salvage are salvaged elements from buildings slated for demolition; this includes homes, churches and commercial properties. Salvaged materials may range from aged barn wood flooring, furniture, doors, and marble fireplaces to claw foot tubs, ornate radiators and handcrafted decorative hardware.

Incorporating architectural salvage into your home or office is a great way to add layers of texture and interest in the space. And, when you buy salvaged building materials you’re not only scoring conversation-worthy accents for your home; you’re also diverting materials from the landfill and minimizing the use of raw materials.

Here are some tips from on hunting for architectural salvage that will hopefully help to save you time and money:

  • Don’t expect perfection. Part of the reason that architectural salvage is historically significant is because of its patina and historical imperfection. Just like an antique furniture piece, most architectural salvage is imperfect. Once you find something you like, consider having a furniture restorer coat the piece clear paste wax, which maintains the antiquity of the piece but gives it a smooth finish.

  • Beware of items that are too good to be true. There are a lot of architectural salvage knockoffs out there, particularly when it comes to marble fireplaces, stained glass and ironwork. If the price is too good to be true, considerably less than every other piece you find, it may well be a knock-off.

  • Identify what you need. If you’re shopping for pieces that will serve a specific function, bring along a notepad filled with the measurements and quantities you need and pictures of items you may be trying to match.

  • Find new uses for old items.The beauty of architectural salvage is that it frees an antique from its former use.
    Iron garden gates can become decorative headboards. Wooden window frames can act as new room dividers. An old weathervane may emerge as the perfect accent for your mantel. Be open to repurposing the function of your new find.

For additional inspiration in salvage and recycling, check out the following links for local sources of architectural salvage as well as historical background information, including the source of wavy glass among other details.

Pasadena Architectural Salvage

Eric’s Architectural Salvage

Habitat for Humanity San Gabriel Valley

Robert Frank is a local resident and owner of Robert Frank Interiors, a full-service interior design and construction company located in San Marino, California. Robert Frank Interiors works in collaboration with clients to create beautiful, functional spaces that reflect their lifestyles and personalities. Visit us on the web at