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  • Arizona Contractor & Community

Modern Day Treasure Hunters: The Business of Architectural Salvage

Fans of such TV home renovation shows as Fixer Upper, Design on a Dime and Property Brothers are familiar with the term "architectural salvage." But if you're not, it's the booming business of reclaiming, upcycling and repurposing architectural building materials, according to Madeline Beauchamp of Olde Good Things, the nation's leading architectural salvage company with retail stores in New York, Los Angeles and Scranton, PA, as well as a major online presence.

"We treasure hunt and upcycle from the most prestigious New York historic hotels, Broadway theaters and prominent commercial buildings to rustic barns, industrial warehouses and vintage shops in order to create a most unique retail experience for our customers," adds Ms. Beauchamp.

Unlike demolition, architectural deconstruction requires finesse instead of sheer force. Reusable items such as tin ceilings, large mirrors and intricate cabinetry can lose their value if they are damaged during the salvage process. To recover a marble mantel from New York's legendary Waldorf Astoria hotel, for example, workers had to cut fasteners in the wall, extricate the mantel, and store it safely on site until it is transported to a warehouse or retail operation.

Olde Good Things also removed the treasured stained-glass windows from the old JFK Airport  American Airlines Terminal 8. Designed by renowned stained-glass artist Robert Sowers, it was a time-intensive and precise salvage job that left the windows virtually intact. 

According to Ms. Beauchamp, "On any given day, shoppers might include: an architect looking for antique French doors, a restaurant designer looking for industrial chicken wire glass and unusual factory doors, a decorator trying to find a set of lights for over a kitchen island, or millennials shopping for unique items from the past." Adding, "Urban dwellers snatch up things like bar carts made of reclaimed pine, large mirrors framed with repurposed copper and ceiling tin, and rare pieces of wooden furniture, while others may covet the cast iron ball and claw bathtubs or porcelain faucets.

Some recent purchases have been the limestone gargoyles from the perch of a Park Avenue building."

"It's a treasure hunt," says Michael Laudati, a New York-based designer specializing in restoring historic Manhattan building lobbies to the original beauty of a bygone era. "You never know what you're going to find or where you're going to find it when you shop for architectural salvage." Among his latest discovered from Olde Good Things include a hand-hammered copper ceiling fixture, a Renaissance Revival fireplace mantel, and an 1880's wrought iron gas light fixture.

If quality and affordability aren't enough reason to join the treasure hunt, factor in the sense of buying a bit of history and nostalgia along with the idea that repurposing is a very smart way to go green.

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