How to create chic rooms with salvage finds

Unique finds can create a characterful look. Here, we show you how to incorporate patinated pieces in your own home

Salvaged sliding doors leading to a dining room that includes vintage DSW chairs in yellow, orange and green
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Well-worn boards

Little Greene Paradise Feather wallpaper paired with reclaimed floorboards, vintage lighting and antique pieces. Vases and planters are filled with flowers and foliage
For similar boards, UK Architectural Antiques has re-sawn reclaimed pine square-edged floorboards at £48 per sq yd. The wallpaper is Paradise in Feather, £151 per roll, Little Greene.

Reclaimed floorboards are not only beautiful but also environmentally friendly, and their patina simply can’t be compared with that of a new floor. While the characterful surface that has been built up over time is the point, it’s worth letting the salvage yard do the hard work for you and paying extra for boards that are problem-free: all the same thickness and without woodworm, stains or broken tongue and groove.

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Instant character

A homely VSP Interiors Devon kitchen filled with an antique wall clock, rustic table, French confit pots and a pale blue Aga
This homely kitchen was designed by VSP Interiors, £POA.

The most memorable interiors are all about displaying individuality. Integrating salvaged furniture is a relatively fuss-free way to inject personality into your home. Look out for functional pieces that complement your existing furniture in terms of scale, form, colour and pattern. For more unique, attention-grabbing pieces, scour salvage yards and fairs (try salvoweb.com) for items that were designed for use in a school, church, museum or even a factory. 

Salvaged light fittings

Antique lighting comes in a variety of guises – from edgy industrial to highly decorative – and adds an instant injection of soul.

These pendant lamps were once part of the standard lighting kit installed in British Army tents. £72 each from Trainspotters

These pendant lamps were once part of the standard lighting kit installed in British Army tents. £72 each from Trainspotters

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In the charts

Vintage wall charts hang in a living room setting with various vintage pieces including a gilt wall sconce, table, stool and a log burner.
Find similar vintage wall charts, from £140 each, at Wild Strawberry Prints. Meadow Saffron poster (just seen) by Jung, Koch & Quentell, £367, Mighty Vintage at Pamono.

If you find the prospect of buying salvaged furniture or architectural fittings daunting, dip your toes in with wall art. Happily, old school charts are still fashionable, and their heritage ensures they sit well with antique and vintage furniture and complement period properties. As with all art, the hang is key – here, formal rows add impact.

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Textural contrast

Reclaimed wash bench from Fired Earth in a marble bathroom
Washbench 600 made from reclaimed teak, £850, Fired Earth.

One of the main advantages of using salvaged, reclaimed or upcycled pieces is that the minor flaws of ageing simply add to their appeal. In bathrooms (which tend to be composed of hard, shiny, regular surfaces), salvaged furnishings – a small chair or stool, a light fitting or, as here, a washstand made from reclaimed wood – add textural contrast, warmth and patina.

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Kitchens with charm

Traditional country style Kitchen designed by Gunter & Co Interiors, £POA.
Kitchen designed by Gunter & Co Interiors, £POA.

Opting for reclaimed materials in kitchens is a sure-fire way to introduce a unique touch into a space that can feel impersonal. The cabinets in this Cotswold cottage were made by hand using reclaimed timber.

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Romantic feel

Paris Rose double duvet cover, £50, and pair of Oxford pillowcases, £20; Woven Linen Check fabric in Grey, £75 per m, all Cabbages & Roses.
Paris Rose double duvet cover, £50, and pair of Oxford pillowcases, £20; Woven Linen Check fabric in Grey, £75 per m, all Cabbages & Roses.

Salvage is versatile – the right piece can enhance softer schemes. Here, antique shutters are used to make decorative headboards. For safety, secure them to the wall. For similar shutters, try English Salvage.

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Statement signs

RE often has a good selection of vintage advertising signs, from £80 to £200.
RE often has a good selection of vintage advertising signs, from £80 to £200.

Whether it’s a bus destination sign or an enamel advertising board, the quirky charm of a vintage sign is hard to resist. They look especially good in functional spaces – downstairs loos, kitchens or utility rooms.

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Bathing beauty

This resplendent bathroom features Jasper Peony wallpaper by Lewis and Wood, £68 per m, F&P Interiors. The curtain is made from Sonoran Oyster fabric by Threads, £69 per m, TM Interiors. For a similar tub, try Antique Baths of Ivybridge.
This resplendent bathroom features Jasper Peony wallpaper by Lewis and Wood, £68 per m, F&P Interiors. The curtain is made from Sonoran Oyster fabric by Threads, £69 per m, TM Interiors. For a similar tub, try Antique Baths of Ivybridge.

If buying a salvaged cast-iron roll-top bath, it’s important to do your homework. Check for length, width and depth, as well as style and whether or not it has been restored. An unrestored bath can be cheap, but the work required to get it up to scratch is often lengthy and expensive. A fully restored bath could cost as much as a modern reproduction, or even more, but is likely to be deeper and more comfortable. Sourced from an antiques shop, this roll-top bath was restored and then installed, with a set of silver-painted claw feet, in a bathroom designed by Sims Hilditch.

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Sliding doors

Salvaged sliding doors leading to a dining room that includes vintage DSW chairs in yellow, orange and green
All the furnishings pictured here were sourced by Retrouvius.

Salvaging old doors is often the only way to ensure that they complement the style of a property. However, they don’t have to be hung conventionally. These glazed doors – like those in Gemma’s kitchen – have been suspended from a sliding rail, tucking back against the wall to save space. This feature creates impact while also linking the salvaged parquet flooring and mid-century furniture.

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Creative touches

This classic kitchen with a contemporary twist has been designed by Woodstock Furniture and costs from £35,000.
This classic kitchen with a contemporary twist has been designed by Woodstock Furniture and costs
from £35,000.

One of the joys of using salvage materials is that surprising – and even perhaps playful – elements can be incorporated into a scheme without looking gimmicky or contrived. Here, a section of a Victorian lamppost has been cut in half, sandblasted and then used to support the long, narrow breakfast bar in a classic-contemporary kitchen. Its highly ornate style contrasts wonderfully with the paired-back, sleek design of the dark painted cabinets and metal bar stools, introducing an unexpected and showstopping effect.

How to shop for salvage

Adam Hills, co-founder of reclamation and re-use experts Retrouvius, gives his insight into buying salvaged furniture, accessories and materials

Almost anything can turn up in a reclamation yard, from benches to washbasins, staircases to statues, with flooring, doors and fireplaces especially popular. There are two reasons that people usually buy salvage. One is primarily for the history, and the other is an appreciation of the materials and craftsmanship involved.

I’ve noticed a move away from the industrial look to a more eclectic,decorative feel – Czech glass light fittings rather than enamel factory shades, for example, and interesting textiles from around the world. We’re selling a lot of kilim-style rugs at present. 

Another great way to use reclaimed pieces is as a substitute for paint or wallpaper: wood panelling,
a mercury glass mirror, bookended veneer panels or a slab of marble. It can become a complete work of art on the wall.

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Have confidence when buying and be prepared to walk away if you are unsure. It’s very easy to buy things that you don’t want or that don’t fit into your home. You have to be strict with yourself. It’s worth asking about provenance, and then bartering – in a good-natured way. A reduction of 10 to15 per cent is generally a fair amount, but buyers should respect that this is the dealer’s means of making a living.