Brooke Cantone of Lumber + Salt in Jamesport gives a tour of salvaged objects ready for repurposing. Credit: Randee Daddona

When Jane Rode bought her Victorian Italianate-style home in Greenport three years ago, it was the rundown 1860 barn out back she wanted to turn into a usable entertainment space. With a budget of $100,000 she hired Brooke Cantone and John Mazur, owners of Lumber + Salt in Jamesport, to make it functional while incorporating period materials. For Rode, it was also an opportunity to use items she had collected during 30 years of antiquing.

“At first I wasn’t sure how I would use them, but I realized I could put them anywhere I had a blank space. I turned one door into a headboard. I used a shutter to put in front of the electrical panel in the barn, and some we just leaned against an empty wall and hung a piece of art on them,” she said.

When friends and family visit they’re immediately drawn to the craftsmanship of the items. “They want to know the story behind them," said Rode, who recently retired as a chief financial officer in the ad tech industry. "It’s a privilege to give them new life and continue their story.”

The 1860 barn at Jane Rode's Greenport home incorporates salvaged...

The 1860 barn at Jane Rode's Greenport home incorporates salvaged wood, brick and other items. Credit: Lumber + Salt

Objects like Rode's are all authentic architectural salvage that reflect the craftsmanship of the era in which they were created. They offer homeowners, builders, designers and businesses a chance to give new life to pieces that once served a purpose in barns, homes, churches, hotels and factories.

Also known as upcycling, repurposing and reclaiming, architectural salvage is used to create accents using just a few pieces or a complete renovation. It’s a popular and sustainable way to decorate and build, according to Cantone, 47, and Mazur, 52, who curate and sell an eclectic array of salvaged building materials.

“The terms are all related, but basically upcycling is about transforming an object that is considered waste and using it again. It’s also called creative reuse,” Cantone said. “A repurpose is taking something old and using it outside its original context. Reclaiming is using something as it was used originally.”

The fireplace in Kenneth B. Zahler's Greenport home incorporates bricks...

The fireplace in Kenneth B. Zahler's Greenport home incorporates bricks from a Brooklyn house, a hand-hewn mantel from a barn, and a 1,000-pound root from a teak tree in Sumatra. Credit: Kenneth B. Zahler

History and imagination

A mantel from an old New England farmhouse. A church door from England. An iron tub from an 1800s factory. A cypress branch from an Alabamian swamp. A brass doorknob from the Savoy Hotel in London. A pile of junk to some, but for others these present an opportunity to create a new style.

The trend is used in both newer housing and for a new look in existing homes, said Kenneth B. Zahler, a real estate salesperson with Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty in Cutchogue. He’s been collecting and incorporating architectural salvage into his Greenport home and new builds for years. “I feel that I'm preserving a piece of history, and it just makes the whole feel of living in a house with at least some old items measurable,” said Zahler, 74.

Some prized finds are his fireplace made of mid-to-late 1800s bricks from a Brooklyn home, a hand-hewn mantel from a barn on the East Coast, and a 1,000-pound single root from a teak tree in Sumatra, which cost $3,500. He also has a kitchen table made from a factory silk tub from the 1800s that he bought locally 20 years ago for $1,000.

An Early American store counter with shelving units stands among...

An Early American store counter with shelving units stands among other items awaiting customers' imaginations at Lumber + Salt. Credit: Randee Daddona

The most popular salvage items at Lumber + Salt are early 19th century ornate fireplace surrounds and mantels (from $500 to thousands of dollars) and barn doors used to divide a room or create a new space (starting around $100), Cantone said. But with imagination, items like cypress branches can become a lighting fixture or a bathroom vanity (starting at $125). An Early American store counter with shelving units can be turned into a unique bar space for an $8,000 investment. Or keep it simple with a $40 brass doorknob.

A signature style for the store comes via items from factories — industrial salvage — such as metal shelving, a fan or columns from a Berlin train station. “We have textile roving bins that over 40 years ago had a purpose in a factory and we’re repurposing as a decorative object, like mounting them on their side on a wall for a 3D wallpaper or as a partition,” Mazur said, adding that each bin costs about $75.

Harry Slutter, right, owner of Urban Specialty Woods in Huntington Station,...

Harry Slutter, right, owner of Urban Specialty Woods in Huntington Station, with the company's artistic director, Scott McCoy. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Where to start

Knowing how to incorporate these pieces into your home takes a bit of artistic flair, ingenuity and sometimes professional guidance. Whether your home is new construction or you’re restoring your current home, small changes such as wide-plank flooring or a single barn door can become significant, said Bob Tortora of Homes by Bob Tortora in Sag Harbor and Fire Island. “It works instantly to give off the aura of age,” he said. “It’s something you'll enjoy because you'll have a little bit of history and another piece of art for the house that will give it a much different look, feel and character.” 

But salvage doesn’t mean it’s inexpensive, added Tortora, 58. “An antique door might need to be stripped and cleaned so might cost about 50% more than a new one. A good, engineered floor is about $20 a foot and for antique flooring add about 50%.”

A kitchen table made from an 1800s factory silk tub in...

A kitchen table made from an 1800s factory silk tub in Zahler's Greenport home. Credit: Kenneth B. Zahler

Most older items won’t be a standard size so you may have to hire a carpenter, said Harry Slutter, owner of Urban Specialty Woods in Huntington Station, where about 12% of lumber stock is salvaged/recycled beams, doors and wide-plank flooring.

But with salvage, less is more. “You don’t want to necessarily do your entire dining room over with architectural salvage," said Slutter, 63. "You can create an accent wall or take an exterior stained-glass window and use it in an interior door as a distinct accent piece. Even adding old hardware, fixtures or doorknobs can be subtle on a modern door and carries over a refined look within the house.”

Tortora advises envisioning the era you're trying to evoke. “So if your house was built in 1920, you can find a newel post or doorknobs from that period," he said.

Wally Stack, center, owner of This 4 You in Freeport, with...

Wally Stack, center, owner of This 4 You in Freeport, with business partner Drew Mileo right, and Hale Storm, who has sold them many of his antique finds. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Walter "Wally" Stack, owner of This 4 You in Freeport, recommends knowing what you’re interested in and taking the time to shop at flea markets such as the annual Brimfield Antique Flea Market in Massachusetts and online sources such as Olde Good Things. Stack, 33, who gets items from churches and buildings in Manhattan that can be up to 200 years old, such as mantels, beams and 1,000-pound foo dogs from the 1800s (about $8,500 a pair), advises patience, as it may take a while to find that perfect item.

Sheri Winter Parker in her home office in Southold, with a...

Sheri Winter Parker in her home office in Southold, with a display by Lora Piana for Neiman Marcus from Hudson Yards, her mother's Louis Vuitton train case and vintage industrial lamps. Credit: Randee Daddona

The designer route

Working with a designer or contractor can also be helpful. Sheri Winter Parker, a licensed associate real estate broker with The Corcoran Group, wanted to redo what she said was a plain Southold home office with a “luxurious, happy vibe.” But she had limited time, so in 2021 she hired Cantone and Mazur for a budget of $25,000, and slightly higher than that for her Cutchogue office.

The new designs included salvaged items such as banker file cabinets, a secondhand Monica Armani square dining table, which serves as a communal desk, vintage factory lights and wall display units salvaged from Neiman Marcus in Hudson Yards. Her husband, Brian Parker, a retired real estate developer, also used salvaged brass from old commercial windows as frames for art and repurposed a piece of crepe myrtle into a chandelier.

The results, Winter Parker said, are worth it. “I’ve gotten rave reviews for both of my offices. When people walk into either, they literally stop and look all around. And when I walk in, it makes me feel so happy. For me, using these artifacts is not only sustainable, but it layers warmth and soul.”

The Parkers have since incorporated other salvage into their home. “You'd be surprised at how easy it is to change the look and feel of your home or office with something as simple as drawer pulls in your kitchen or bathroom,” Winter Parker said.

Sheri Winter Parker and Brian Parker in the dining room...

Sheri Winter Parker and Brian Parker in the dining room of their Southold home with a metal rivet table said to be from the Andy Warhol estate in Montauk sourced by Lumber + Salt in Jamesport and a chandelier Brian made from reclaimed driftwood. Credit: Randee Daddona

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