living room and kitchen from distance

Add Old-Fashioned Character and Charm with Salvage Style

One of the best ways to add old-fashioned character and charm to a building is with salvage style, salvaging architectural elements. Reclaimed elements are a must for that authentically old look. Here are two types of homes in which salvage style is most definitely an option:

  1. There is history in your home. It may be decades rather than centuries, but you want certain elements to stay true to your vintage style.
  2. The house is brand new. It’s a blank slate that begs for timeless details and layers of patina.


Architectural Salvage Style – What is it?

When old buildings are slated for renovation or demolition, existing fixtures are often removed and sold by dealers who specialize in recycling anything that can be saved. Although structures are no longer safe to use, they can still provide antique windows, shutters, doors, lighting, beams, corbels, columns, moldings, tiles, fireplace surrounds, flooring, and hardware. These and other items can be used in place of builder-grade materials to add history to your home’s decor.

How to Decorate with Salvage

beaded decoration hanging from antique light fixture

A friend of mine has been renovating homes for years but took on a new challenge when she decided to turn a 130-year-old Victorian house into a chic American farmhouse. She completed a major renovation project and sourced many architectural salvage pieces before bringing the interior design together.

She carefully incorporated authentic and iconic farmhouse elements, such as grain sack fabrics, chippy wooden pieces, and one-of-a-kind vintage pieces.

How to Get Inspired

To find old-fashioned home decorations, start by brainstorming. I have a Pinterest board to collect ideas for combining Victorian architecture and farmhouse style. Whenever I feel down or lose focus, I stare with hope at my ‘Home Ideas’ Pinterest board.

Curating this board also helps me stay on track with purchases. If I’m not 100 percent sure about an item, I go back to the board and take a look to see if it matches any ideas on my board. If it doesn’t and is just something I find attractive but can’t necessarily use in my house, I will pass on it. Whether you consult Google, your neighbor’s living room, or your favorite blog, check your own vision as you plan so you don’t end up buying things that you like but have no use for in your home.

Explore Unlikely Sources

Investigate unlikely sources as you begin to buy. Browse architectural salvage centers and yard sales for unique treasures from surprising places – and at sometimes incredible prices – in addition to antique shops, flea markets, and estate sales.

The previous owner of my home salvaged antique ceiling tiles from a condemned mansion. We took the tiles and used them as a fireplace surround. In Louisville, Colorado, where we used to live, there were a lot of turn-of-the-century homes being demolished to build more modern family homes. I would walk through the neighborhood and pull old doors, gorgeous lead glass windows, and funky cabinets from the demo heaps!

Yard sales are another excellent place to make purchases since sellers are often willing to negotiate on already low prices. I bought my dining room table at a rummage sale for $50, and my vintage rocking chair was only $10, purchased from a local online auction site. The chandelier in my daughter’s bedroom is also architectural salvage obtained from a local tea house sale. The owner delivered it personally, dressed in a set of tails with the chandelier dangling over his shoulder.

You can also always check out antique stores but remember you will pay handsomely for the same items you can salvage for free on your own or scoop up for pennies at yard sales and thrift shops!

Take a Second Look

antique french door

Even if you don’t find the perfect coffee table on OfferUp or Craigslist on Monday, it could be there on Friday. Keeping a running list of items you’re looking for will help you track down your favorite sources, whether online or in person. Don’t get discouraged if it takes you a few months to find the right piece at the right price. Don’t settle for less. Just be patient and keep looking! It will be well worth the wait when you finally find what you’re looking for.

Please share your favorite ways of sourcing salvaged pieces. We’d love to hear your ideas for creating a salvage style home in the comments section below.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top