salvage

TBT: The original sink

In what I rank as the biggest salvage find thus far, we managed to get our hands on the original sink to our house. Finding good stuff can be summarized into two steps: being at the right place at the right time, and not being afraid to ask: can I have that?

Lucky for us, we happen to be walking down the street on trash day, when our neighbor asked us if we thought sanitation would take it. I am so glad we were able to grab it.

The two original bathrooms to our house are very very tiny. I’ve embraced that fact and let go of my old dream of a humongous bathroom. Who needs that? I’m over it. I want original, a fact that has been met with some opposition by the husband, who wishes to have a bathroom large enough so that he can towel off without having to open the door. Details!

Anyway.

Bathroom plan

This the original drawing for the bathroom by Daniel McDicken, the builder. As you can see, there isn’t much space.

(pardon the blurry photo. It was really hard to take pictures at the DOB and not be trampled by developers. A metaphor for what is happening in Brooklyn? Hmmm…)

Before finding the sink and the plans, we figured this must have been a small wall mounted sink. Turns out, it was a small sink with a darling marble counter:

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A tiny under mount sink. How cute is that?

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We have located a skinny bathtub (29 inches wide), and now we just need a toilet. And of course, to install everything. Details, details…

 

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9 Billionty Nails (and a quandry)

All the salvage accumulating in our cellar comes infested with nails. Lots and lots of freaking nails. It seems that no job was too small for a 3-inch nail; nor, it seems, were nails in short supply: better secure that little strip of trim with as many (gigantic) nails as humanly possible. So yes, 9 billionty nails pulled, or approximately a little less than half of the pile.

(9 billionty nails = 6 blisters)

(The nails win. For now.)

Anyway, while I was toiling way with the stupid nails in the cellar, the hubs was surprising me with a new (old) light fixture.

victorian light fixture

This purdy little thing was a salvage find from a couple of years ago, on a trip to Detroit. It was in need of a good cleaning and some new sockets and wires.

It is going in the bedroom, where it will be replacing the cheap and generic Ikea fixture that was there before. (one day we’ll be living in a house that doesn’t rely so heavily on blah-Ikea… Oh, I kid. That will never happen.)

victorian light fixture detail3

After a good cleaning, what looked like a gray rusty fixture, turned out like this:

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I like the subtle hints of green, gold and red, so I think we’ll keep it like this (rather than restore to full color).

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However, as you might have noticed in some of the photos, at some point someone was less than neat with their ceiling pant job and got a big slop of institutional beige on  the side (beige, the color of boring).

victorian light fixture detail

As someone who is fascinated with all manners of paint removal, I’m stumped by this one: how am I going to remove the ugly and keep the pretty?

 

 

 

Kilian Brothers part 2 (the updated version)

I found these ads in the Real Estate Record and Guide. A quick check of some of my neighbors fireplaces, and it seems that the Kilians’ were the go-to purveyors of fireplace surrounds of the late 1880s and early to mid 1890s.

7-6-1889 Killian Bros

Real Estate Record and Builders’ Guide (July 6, 1889)

1-3-1891 Killian Bros

Real Estate Record and Builders’ Guide (January 3, 1891)

 

Another house in my area is getting fully gutted. Hopefully they will keep the fireplaces intact. All the walls, trim, everything: gone. Trying to save what I can, will eventually run out of room to store all this stuff…

Update: they are keeping the fireplaces. Yey! Not only that, they have an intact one in the rear parlor (meaning it has the mirror topper, as pictured above). The demo crew was kind enough to let me peek inside. Befriending demo crews is becoming a skill I get to practice quite a bit as of late.

 

 

I totally have a plan and I’m going to – LOOK! SHINY THINGS!

(actually these were painted, dirty and discarded things, but we’ll get to that in a moment)

Ah focus. Some people have it, I don’t. I’m easily distracted by possibilities, by day dreaming and by imagining the worst of the worst case scenarios. Yet, once in a while, I will spring into action at a moment’s notice, after realizing that life cannot continue on in this manner. After having one of those “I cannot stand this room one more minute” moments, I decided to get serious about our dining room. I had already attempted a Style Cure (HA. HA HA HA HA!) that was interrupted by  6 weeks of 14-hour work days, followed by binge holiday cooking baking (not having an oven for 3 years will do that to you), followed by a very sick kitten (who has since recovered, but not before consuming a healthy amount of our home restoration savings). Anyway, time to get this room done!

With newfound enthusiasm, work resumed. I begun skim coating the walls – after a steep learning curve, I’m getting quite good at it. It’s t time-consuming (what else is new?) because I discovered that many thin coats are much better than one or two thicker ones.

Skimcoating in progress

please excuse crappy cell phone photo, which makes the moldings appear bowed. They are not.

So slow we go, that is, until I notice that one of the houses in the back is being renovated. This precipitated a trip around the block and the discovery of a ton of Victorian trim, just tossed in the front yard.

This is a good place to mention that the way I feel about architectural salvage is the way a lot of women feel about shoes: you can never have too much. Like a lot of people who wouldn’t pass up a good shoe sale, I cannot let 120-year old lumber be tossed in a dumpster. It’s against my nature, and it will cause me great intestinal distress to just let it go. After hemming and hawing about whether a pile in the front yard is fair game (I knocked on the door but no one answered), I decided to leave a note asking whether I could come dig through their “trash.” Much to my surprise, the contractor called me back within 30 minutes and said “be my guest.”

What started as a quick peek, stretched over a couple of hours of treasure hunting in sub-zero temperatures. The guys showed me inside and to another pile of “garbage,” far more than what I could take in one day. With a gargantuan dumpster looming over me (and my soon to be) salvage, the nice people said I could come back Saturday morning at 8 am and take anything they didn’t want to keep.

one car load

Long story short, the car was filled 3 4 times (and counting). The overflow (which included two carved fireplace mantels) was walked around the corner. I’m happy I was able to save so much mill work, yet I’m sad for all the other wonderful things I wasn’t able to save. The house was nearly intact before the gut renovation started. I wish I had stopped by earlier. It’s heartbreaking (to me) when people rip out details from old houses. A Brooklyn brownstone is not meant to look like a loft; I have very strong feelings about plaster and the role of bricks in a brownstone (to be hidden by plaster and never seen). I also realize I’m not Queen of the Universe and these are just my opinions (surely this is an oversight due to be corrected any day now). Until then, if detail must be ripped out, then at least it should not go to the dumpster. It should be saved and re-used by those of us who appreciate it.

Now if you please excuse me, I have another carload of stuff to rescue. One man’s trash is another woman’s treasure…

House Parts

While our credit card statements may seem to betray this sentiment, we do have a distaste for cookie cutter, mass-produced house parts. Yes, while we’re at Home Depot, Lowe’s and our neighborhood True Value hardware stores multiple times a week, there are things we need that simple cannot be got there. Like a suitable window. Or a proper door. These items require a bit more digging to find the perfect match.

Last week we took a trip to Albany to check out the salvage at the Architectural Parts Warehouse maintained by the Historic Albany Foundation.

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On the shopping list: window, door, door hardware, a claw foot tub and fireplace tile. We have been to a lot of salvage places all over the east coast and midwest, and while this not the largest we’ve ever seen, it’s certainly the most organized. You can easily find what you’re looking for. It’s heaven!

Warehouse

windows

more knobs

Chapel of Hardware

rosettes

We came home with a door, window and all necessary hardware. No luck with the tub, because we’re looking for the smallest size (which turns out to be nearly impossible to find). Also no individual fireplace tiles, although the had a full tile surround, still attached to its plaster and in great condition.

Salvage

I love old junk salvage. Love it, love it love it. I don’t know what it is, but the thrill of finding an amazing cast off is the ultimate dopamine boost. It’s way way better than eating your feelings in chocolate ice cream – and not much can match that…  Sadly, pickings are slim in New York City in terms of reasonably priced salvage – but that doesn’t stop me from being constantly on the lookout for something amazing.

Not too long ago, we took a trip to Build It Green in Astoria to look for a powder room sink. The thing with Build It Green is that you never leave with the item you came looking for – but you will certainly find some random wonderful item that you can’t live without any longer. Case in point, this dresser.  I love everything about it, and I’m still haunted by the fact that I didn’t buy it.

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We left without buying anything because sinks they had were not what we needed. The inventory changes frequently, and rest assured that if that dresser is still there next time, it will be coming home with me.