Find Your Inner Robber Baron
A Sunset magazine headline of some years back — Recycle, Restore, Reuse — is more relevant than ever in today’s economy. So, where can you find affordable but distinctive home products and building materials
like this Talaveras pottery sink for $50? The answer is: at architectural salvage yards like Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores across the US and Canada. ReStore is a home improvement outlet that sells donated, new, used, and surplus goods to the public at greatly reduced prices.
Profits support the local Habitat for Humanity, a network of community volunteers who build modest affordable homes with the families who will live in them. Browser beware, however: you’ll need to visit an outlet regularly to catch the most popular items — that sink came in to the Sonoma County, California Restore outlet (entrance pictured above) just after I arrived and had sold before I left!
These outlets and other salvage yards are where you can make like the insatiable artifact collector and San Simeon Castle builder William Randolph Hearst but without his billionaire budget. (Remember: a lot of the doors, paneling, and even ceilings in Hearst Castle came from Spanish monasteries and French chateaux — in those days Europe was the ultimate salvage yard for some people.) In addition to the sink shown above, I found
solid core paneled doors for $100, and a granite-topped
corner bar cabinet for $850.
If you don’t see what you want at a ReStore, google “architectural salvage” or check with your local building department to find recycle outlets in your area.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, Ohmega Salvage Yard now has some unusual Gothic-style oak panels saved from the old Carnelian Room
Restaurant on the 52nd floor of the Bank of America building in San Francisco. Historic Houseparts in Rochester, New York boasts a large inventory of vintage plumbing and bathroom fixtures
and would be a good place to look for early twentieth century porcelain sink spigots. At Architectural Artifacts in Chicago you’ll find items like these Art Nouveau interior doors.
A Builder’s Recycle Sourcing Tips
Our in-house contractor expert Brian Garrison has some good advice for the home product hunter-gatherer:
On Older Windows and Doors: “I would not recommend recycling doors and windows for the exterior because of the heat loss and gain. Older building materials and practices may not be worth the upfront savings. ”
On Appliances and Fixtures: “Suppliers often finds themselves with opened boxes or damaged/imperfect products and these can be great buys. As long as the imperfections cannot be seen or do not take away from the beauty or function of the product there is no problem with using them in your new home.”
Thanks Brian — and Mr. Hearst — for showing us how to shop the recycle market.