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Opening Times (GMT): Mon to Thur - 8:30 - 5:00 Fri - 8:30 - 4:00
In the north of England there is an adage: One man’s muck is another man’s brass. This is particularly true for fans of architectural salvaging. For some people, the term ‘salvage’ is a euphemism for ‘rummaging through a skip’. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. This increasingly popular approach to interior design has become big business for the network of architectural salvage dealers jotted around the UK and beyond.
Take Retrouvius – the destination salvage company and its acclaimed design studio, based across two buildings in Kensal Green, London. Founded 25 years ago in 1993 by Adam Hills and Maria Speake, Retrouvius is driven by the belief that good materials and well-made things are precious; whether ornate lead glass or old cheese boards that were used to store maturing cheeses. These objects were hard won and have an intrinsic value that argues for them to be re-conditioned and intelligently re-used. Their showroom is stuffed with the reclaimed relics of Britain's eclectic and often eccentric past. Inside, 2,000-square-metres of beautiful Hopton Wood fossil limestone from Heathrow Terminal 2, sits happily next to robust industrial Victorian, mid-century Italian and Scandinavian gems, as well as delicate modern lighting and vintage textiles.
Salvaging great pieces is all about having an eye for quality and more importantly potential. You need to have the vision to see past the object in its current form and see it as an opportunity to refurbish or repurpose the piece. There’s a great satisfaction that comes from bringing a historical piece back from the brink. Knowing that the old Victorian chest of drawers that was destined for firewood, will live on as a stunning bathroom vanity unit, sitting beneath a pristine white fireclay sink for years to come.
The best results often come from this creative ‘reimagining’ of an object’s purpose. For example; using old scaffolding boards to create a rustic table or counter top. Old wooden greengrocer’s boxes make perfect rustic drawers when combined with an old kitchen tall boy. We’ve witnessed chaise longues made from old cast iron baths and lamp stands made from old tailor’s mannequins.
Reclaimed flooring can make a great interior wall cladding, adding warmth and texture to a room. The original, highly decorative Majolica glazed brick tiles often found in Victorian era swimming baths, can be bought easily online, and make a great splashback that will add a perfect patina and character to any kitchen.
This exploration and reimagination of an object’s purpose allows you to create very individual one-off pieces that are unique to you. Not only that, they will forever carry your personal story of where the piece was found and always leave you wondering about the details of its life before you. As a result, you’ll fill your home with character and charm, avoiding the ‘we have that too’ moment often associated with the mass-produced home decor staples.
Not only is this approach a great way to get the most from your interior design budget, it’s an extremely eco-friendly approach that reduces landfill, and minimises the use of raw materials. It’s a rejection of the disposable society we live in today.
Read our ‘Get the look’ journal post on Stunning Salvage for interior ideas and inspiration.
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