Recycling the Past


Source: Smart Home Owner Magazine
Author: Judith Stock
Posted: Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Salvaged Materials: Reclaiming the Past

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Judith Stock

You never know what you’ll find when you dig around an architectural salvage yard The adage “everything old is new again” could not be truer today. More and more homeowners are outfitting their houses with reclaimed architectural, building and finish materials, due to the environmental benefits of recycling these materials, as well as their quality and rich heritage. Another benefit is that salvaged items usually cost a fraction of what hardware superstores charge for a similar new item. To get an idea of what’s available to homeowners, I jumped in my car and made a trip to a salvage yard in North Hollywood, Calif. There, I came face to face with an impressive array of doors, windows, bathroom and lighting fixtures, reclaimed wood flooring, cobblestones, bricks, wrought iron, and one scruffy junkyard dog named Mike Brown, who came out to greet me at the entrance to the 1920s-era Spanish-style church that serves as the salvage yard’s office. A Paradise for Scavengers There’s no such thing as a typical salvage yard, and Scavenger’s Paradise is no exception. “I have a three-legged dog and a junkyard,” says Gilliam Greyson about her beloved dog and the salvage yard she’s owned for three years. Wedged full of rescued pieces and reclaimed items, the place is definitely not Home Depot or Lowe’s, but it offers treasures impossible to find in one of those ubiquitous home-improvement stores. Owning a junkyard is a perfect fit for her, Greyson says. “I’ve been accused of being a saver, and now I have someplace to put it all.” Customers can find just about anything they need here, she notes, though some of her more popular items include vintage wrought iron, statues, fountains, cast-iron urns, garden pots and benches. Objects passed from person to person build up a patina that can’t be found in newer items, Greyson explains, and admits that the history behind such pieces fascinates her. “I appreciate the quality of workmanship that went into each piece, and I believe my clients do, too.” When she buys old furniture, she tries to get distinctive pieces, she says. “I have a two-sided train bench, a church pew from the ’40s, a long-case English grandfather clock from the Duke of Bedford and the chandelier out of Liberace’s ballroom. I want to pass down that history to the new owner.” Upon digging around a bit, I found a hand-carved marble mantel from a San Marino home designed by Wallace Neff, a prominent architect of the 1930s and ’40s. I also stumbled across an entire room of pitch-pine paneling with four matching doors. I located the matching fireplace mantel in the backyard. Nearly 90 percent of the inventory at Scavenger’s Paradise finds its way here from local sources in and around Los Angeles, making the 7,500-square-foot church building and 50-by-150-foot yard a magnet for anyone interested in one-of-a-kind salvaged materials for home projects. Visitors always are amazed at the selection and variety of items, Greyson notes. Interior designers often stop by to search for objects they can use in their clients’ homes, while studio people shop around for items to use as set decorations. “In this area today, there are so many McMansions being built,” Greyson says, “but they can be cold and empty. If you incorporate an older piece as the cornerstone of a room, it sets the place apart.” Finding stellar pieces and then seeing them go to the perfect home is a real joy for her, Greyson admits. She gets particular pleasure when selling to homeowners who “see the value in reusing pieces. It’s so satisfying to me.” Recycling the Past Naturally, Scavenger’s Paradise is not the only s

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