Editors' Letter: Salvage: smart saves
“What can we salvage?” ask so many house restorers as they’re just beginning—at a point when salvage is a synonym for save. Can we save the cracked and efflorescing plaster? Can we keep the beat-up floor, given a good sanding and a patch here and there? In the overgrown garden, which trees and shrubs are salvageable? In essence, restoration is salvaging in its purest form: the rescue and reuse of original materials where they have always been.
Salvaging is also the careful removal of valuable elements from buildings that are being gutted or torn down. Doing so creates a marketplace for the sale of parts more varied and authentic than the reproduction market can satisfy. Using salvaged pieces provides verisimilitude or a whiff of history, a softened edge and something unique to a renovated or newly built house.
Salvage as adaptive reuse has been trending for years. Old bits are repurposed: a carved capital from a porch column becomes indoor sculpture, copper canning vessels are hammered out to become tabletops. And so these castoffs are diverted from the landfill, their patina preserved.
We planned this September edition of OHJ as “the salvage issue,” but, despite the theme, it’s not that different from other issues. Saving, salvaging, rescuing, reusing, and repurposing are endemic to sensitive renovation. We had no trouble finding projects big and small, even an entire 1940s house built of colonial parts during the war shortage. Our feature on Victorian-style bathrooms shows that antique plumbing fixtures and lighting are in demand. The Italianate house tour takes us to its new-old kitchen built with salvaged slate and stained glass, an old icebox and a reconditioned 1920s stove. Read the nitty-gritty advice, too—and consider using “something old” in your next project.
~ Patricia Poore, Editorial Director of Old House Journal
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