Something Old into Something New... Using Salvaged and Recyclable Materials

Something Old into Something New...

 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 136 million tons  of construction and demolition waste was generated in 1996, which was the last  time these figures were made available, and those numbers have most likely  risen in the 15 years since.  

 The data shows that the majority of the waste came from demolition and  renovation, while the rest came from new construction, with less than 30  percent of that waste salvaged for recycling.  

 Today, architectural salvage, which in simplest terms is the reclamation or  reuse of architectural materials, is gaining popularity in our more  environmentally-conscious society.  

 “The advantage of this is that it’s generally better quality, a better price and has a lot more character than  something newer,” says Stuart Grannen, the owner of Architectural Artifacts Inc., an  architectural salvage company in the Lakeview section of Chicago, which boasts  an 80,000-square-foot showroom. “Our focus has always been on pieces of intrigue, objects of a lost world, the  aesthetic and the beautiful. It’s a lot more fun and you can always feel good about the green part of it all.”  

 Remodeling with secondhand building materials has many fans. Some are owners of  historic houses who improve their homes by adding period elements. Others  follow green building practices and appreciate conserving resources and keeping  materials out of landfills. And still others are looking for quirky elements  that will break their homes out of cookie-cutter molds.  

 Materials used come from salvaged elements from buildings slated for demolition,  including homes, churches and commercial properties and may range from aged  barn wood flooring, furniture, doors, and marble fireplaces to claw foot tubs,  ornate radiators and handcrafted decorative hardware.  

 “You can repeat antique elements, but it’s not the same,” says Steve Feldman, president and founder of Green Demolitions, which recycles  luxury kitchens, bathrooms, appliances, architectural elements, home décor, and more in 43,000 square feet in three stores in New Jersey, Connecticut  and Pennsylvania.  

 The salvage and reuse of building materials helps to preserve historic and  antique fixtures, furniture, and building materials, prevents more waste from  entering landfills, and reduces the consumption of new resources.  

 Salvaged masonry materials also give buildings a historic look. Using antique  brick in a new project or remodeling job will create a space that conjures up  the feeling of a century-old structure, even in a brand new installation.  

 “The main reason we go to salvage is to match what’s already on a building. Usually, if you want something historic, you need to  use salvaged materials,” says Jeffrey Frake, vice president of the Masonry Preservation Group Inc., in  Merchantville, N.J. “You just flat out can’t get a match for it any other way.”  

 Nothing New

 Designers have known about this decorating secret for decades, but it has more  recently come into fashion in the past 20 years or so.  

 Zaborski Emporium has been operating in Kingston, New York for 15 years, but the  family has been involved in the business for almost four decades.  

 “There is a development in Chicago built in the 1960s which utilized a lot of  reclaimed stained glass and beautiful woodwork and other architectural elements  and in doing so, that is one of the neighborhoods that maintained the value in  its home because of the uniqueness and it never goes out of style,” says Sandy Balla, one of the operators of Zaborski. “This is nothing new. We work with designers, architects and private individuals  on a regular basis.”  

 Grannen started working with reclaimed stained glass more than 45 years ago and  has had his store open since 1987. A journey through his store and you will see  an 18th Century Italian armoire next to two French mirrors, next to a big easel  from Argentina, next to limestone from the Michigan Ave. Bridge.  

 “All of these things can be used again and it’s all pretty high quality things,” Grannen says. “If people are looking for a marble bathtub or a sink from a French chateau, we  deal in these vintage things.”  

 This and That

 When it comes to materials, almost anything that comes from a home can be  reused, especially kitchens and bathrooms that are ripped out.  

 “People have a use for almost anything, as long as it hasn’t been trashed,” Balla says. “Whether it’s architecturally beautiful or not, it may just be utilitarian for a while in a  home, and then stuff will get ripped out again.”  

 Balla says that even items you may think would never sell, do, as there is a  buyer for everything.  

 “The thing that cracks me up is mid-century,” says Balla, “not 1850s mid-century, but stuff from the 1950s and ’60s, like a pink bathroom. You wouldn’t think people would want that, but people are buying houses that have been  modernized and they are putting it back in because they think it is old,” Bella says. “They want an aqua bathtub! It boggles the mind that people are interested in  that, but that’s what they remember as children and so it sells.”  

 Feldman believes that different styles are always going to be relevant, it’s the matter of just finding the right people.  

 “We have three different stores in three different markets. Different people have  different tastes, styles and budgets,” he says.  

 The items used don’t need to be used for what they were designed for, either. Many of the ornate or  unique things are often used as standing art or for some other purpose.  

 “I bought an 18th century door from Saudi Arabia that’s around 260 years old with innate carvings, and it’s never going to be a door again but it’s a beautiful object for the home,” Grannen says. “I have a gate from Argentina, that’s totally useless as a gate, but it can be used to make a fabulous headboard.”  

 Time and Patience

 Someone looking for the perfect reclaimed item for their home is probably not  going to just walk into one of these businesses and walk out five minutes later  with exactly what they were looking for. Those interested in an ornate wood  mantelpiece or a specific set of Victorian doors, has to be willing to  compromise on some of the details and commit some time to the endeavor.  

 “I tell people before they come to the store to wear comfortable shoes and eat a  good lunch, because they could spend hours looking around,” Balla says, referencing her 40,000-square-foot, four-floor building. “We will work with those who are very particular. Some people try matching  specific hinges; it’s not enough that they are ornate, they are willing to wait and spend time  looking for the exact ones.”  

 If the items needed aren’t available, most of those in the business will keep a list of what people are  after and call if and when those items make it to the store.  

 “We will always work with designers, but sometimes they ask us to find a blue  elephant and then we find the perfect one and they tell you they wanted lighter  blue, so it can get frustrating,” Grannen says.  

 The key for success seems to be persistence and the ability to be a little  flexible.  

 “I keep a list but the people who call me once a month are the ones who get what  they are looking for,” Balla says. “Right now, someone is looking for a half-round window and they are in the book.  For people that need bluestone in quantity, cut the way it used to be cut,  there is a waiting list.”  

 Green Demolitions offers a website of items, including a special section on  last-minute arrivals.  

 “We just got in a historic fireplace mantle and you never know what we’re going to come across. It’s up to consumers to keep checking. We do have a sales team to get back to  people, but most consumers come in every day to see what came in as its  constantly updated, Feldman says. “It’s first come first serve, so you need to buy before you lose it because there  may never be another one of whatever it is again, especially at that price  point.”  

 Advantages Abound

 Green Demolitions was created to earn the funds to support the worldwide  addiction recovery outreach programs of the Twelve Step program of All Addicts  Anonymous. Through donations, they recycle luxury kitchens, bathrooms,  appliances, architectural elements, home décor, and more, all at 50 to 90 percent off.  

 Balla agrees that someone can put in a beautiful bathroom by choosing items from  her showroom that will be much more unique than anyone else’s for a price that would probably cost 75 percent cheaper than if they were to  go the new route.  

 “If you put in a state-of-the art Jacuzzi, it could be out of style in 15 years,” she says. “But if you add in an old Victorian bathtub that will never go out of style and  will help the value in your home.”  

 In addition to the financial savings, the real beneficiary from all these  projects is the environment.  

 “We protect the forestry by not throwing thing out, landfill waste and energy  cost, Feldman says.  

 And that’s the best bargain of all.   

 Keith Loria is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to The Chicagoland  Cooperator.  

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