Simple Ways to Add Architectural Salvage to Your Home

Are you looking for unique and creative ways to add character and charm to your home? In this post, I will share some simple ways to add architectural salvage into your home. Every time I have done this, I have loved the results!

Let’s talk about decorating with architectural salvage. Whether you are renovating, decorating, or just looking for a quick DIY project, incorporating salvage can give your home a unique look.

Architectural salvage refers to the reuse of vintage or antique building materials, fixtures, and decorative elements. By incorporating architectural salvage, you not only add a touch of history and uniqueness to your living space, but you’re also recycling! It’s like a win/win.

Vintage Doors

One of the easiest ways (I think) to add architectural salvage to your home is by using antique doors. The patina adds so much personality. I also love the vibe that comes from a peely and chippy old painted door. And to say that ‘they don’t make things the way they used to’ is an understatement! Antique doors tend to be solid wood and have great patinas.

Old doors can make a single room or closet feel special, such as a half bath, pantry or laundry area, or even a guest bedroom. They are a great statement piece for these smaller rooms. I love the doors that have a window view. These are obviously best for public areas.

Old doors can also be put onto modern sliding tracks and used in the barn door style. This is not just something for farmhouse decor. It’s a great idea to utilize if having a swinging door doesn’t work for the space. You simply need a portion of blank wall where the door can slide over.

To decorate, antique doors can be hung as a headboard, made into bookcases, or furniture. The size is great for a large workspace or desk top in a home office, a unique table top and much more. There are so many ideas and uses for vintage doors and many places to find inspiration in how to use them.

What to Consider When Choosing Them

The most important consideration when looking for an old door as a statement piece in an existing area is the size. It’s usually difficult to find something the exact dimension you need, so I always look for one slightly larger than my opening. The height and width can always be cut down a bit. Just make sure that in so doing, it does not alter the doors overall design.

I found this perfect door for our pantry (in our last house) but it was too wide and short, but everything about it was perfection. So I bought it anyway. I loved the window view it gave into the pantry, as the space had decorative appeal and wasn’t just storage. We had to replace the glass, which we did using seeded glass.

We ended up using a piece cut from the width to build up the length on the bottom. No one ever noticed, and it was the perfect door for the pantry.

Reclaimed Wood

Using reclaimed wood in new home design can add warmth and character to a room. I feel like it is an efficient way to add detail to an otherwise basic area. After all, homes (especially newer homes) are just a blank slate to add your personality to. I don’t believe they are ever meant to stay that way. Flip that switch in your brain, and allow it to be your starting point.

Most reclaimed wood that’s been salvaged from old buildings or barns, would have otherwise been discarded. I love that someone thought to save it and give it a chance at a new life. Can you even imagine throwing that patina away? Oh, the horror!

Salvaged wood may have unique textures, patinas, and colors that just can’t be found in new wood, and it often has a story to tell. I love to see reclaimed wood used as insets in cabinets or built-ins. There are a million ideas that reclaimed wood can be used to make unique details in a room.

A work in progress

Back when we had a retail shop as part of my business, we had a counter built special for the store. You can read about that here. I loved the moulding we inserted into the front, and then we painted it in a fabulous French blue. It was sooooo good!

Reclaimed Wood as Wall Decor

Reclaimed wood can line a ceiling or become a feature on walls. You can use it to wrap beams or other necessary supports needed in renovation, to make that updated feature look old. It can be used in any way that you would use new materials to finish a room.

Incorporating reclaimed wood into new construction or renovation can give a sense of history and character in your home where there was none. You can make it look original to the space, or more obvious as a decor feature. Follow me on Pinterest for ideas and tips on how to use it.

I love this old beadboard that was styled into a newly built barn on Rachel Ashwell’s “once upon a time” Prairie property. It was amazing they had enough for that huge wall. This was the most beautiful ‘prairie farmhouse’ spot and where we held my youngest daughter’s wedding. Here she is dancing with her daddy. Of course, the property offered a million great places to take pictures. You can see some of them here. There’s nothing like the perfect shabby chic blue and pink decor.

Newel Posts

Adding a vintage newel post gives an otherwise ho-hum newer banister great decorating appeal! When retrofitting, look for one taller than you need that can be cut down. If the finish is right for you, it will add a layer in your design that is unfounded other than in vintage architectural salvage. But you can also paint it if desired.

I love the way it was styled at Christmas, when I hung the collection of antique sock stretchers along the bannister railing. I had more along my fireplace in another room, but they fit so perfect next to the antique vibe of the newel post. Christmas decorating with architectural salvage pieces is another great way to add the elements temporarily.

Corbels and Decor Elements

These salvaged pieces such as doors, moldings, corbels, columns, and mantels are often rich in detail and craftsmanship that may not be found in modern counterparts. By incorporating these salvaged pieces into new construction, homeowners can create a unique blend of old and new, and preserve the history and craftsmanship of a bygone era.

I feel like I see corbels used while decorating with architectural salvage, such as in a layered mantel vignette, but they still look great when attached in corners. Even though they may not be doing any supporting of the structure.

I love the look of using antique corbels and other decorative elements to add personality. They can be used as standalone decorative pieces or repurposed into functional items, such as bookends or wall shelves. They also make great accents for mantels, entryways, and doorways.

custom desk area made from reclaimed barn wood

When paired with other antique pieces or vintage decor, corbels can help create a charming aesthetic in your home. Just be sure to properly secure them to avoid any safety hazards.

Old Windows, Shutters and Frames

Old windows and shutters may not be used as they originally were, but they sure can add character and charm to home design. Using salvaged windows as picture frames or room dividers can create a vintage or rustic look.

A shed I built out of all architectural salvage

They can also be repurposed as mirrors, serving trays, or even as a unique headboard for a bed. We had a window that had been made into a mirror that we used in the cottage bathroom for about 15 years. Just recently, I have replaced it and it is awaiting it’s new life.

Shutters can be used as wall decor or as an accent piece on a mantel. They can also be transformed into a decorative and functional shelf, a side table or even as a garden trellis.

The Shutter That Got Away

Decades ago, I bought the most amazing pair of shabby chic blue peely shutters at a flea market on Cape Cod. I hoarded them for about 5 years before I finally incorporated them into a decorative feature in our primary bathroom in our larger hone we left 20 years ago. I had retrofitted them to match the space perfectly. The color was so perfect, I would just love to have them to match a paint color to!

When we went to sell, I thought they should stay there, as they looked so lovely in the spot. Like an idiot, I sold them with the house. Regret that stupid move all the time! I had to dig through the pictures of when the house was for sell, but here it is. They fit really great in that corner window view. Hello outdated corner tub!

Adding Larger Elements

From solid wood doors and windows, to wrought iron, vintage lighting and hardware, there are endless possibilities for adding architectural salvage to your home. These large antiques can create a one-of-a-kind room that reflects your personal style.

Sometimes I feel like finding larger pieces are easier, as not everyone has the space. I remember cruising through this great antique shop in Salt Lake City that had gorgeous architectural salvage mirrors that were enormous, along with giant cabinets that needed a huge room. They had been there awhile because not everyone has a space that big.

But imagine how an oversized hutch, with gorgeous mirrored doors, would look in an amazing French Country dining room. It could offer ample storage, display area, and surface as a sideboard for parties. Of course, you would need a huge wall for something like that. But incorporating a salvaged piece like that would make the room a real standout!

My fave French Country look for salvage is finding a large unique table or old counter to use as an island in a kitchen. It’s also a wonderful English Country farmhouse look to decorate above it. Imagine an old salvaged wrought iron gate that can be used as a pot rack to hold copper pots, baskets, with some French blue salvaged tiles in the background. My brain goes crazy thinking about it!

Where to Find Architectural Salvage

If you are lucky enough to have a place near you that specializes in architectural salvage, then you are half way there! Finding architectural salvage can be the hardest part. I have a great place not too far away in Grass Lake, Michigan. It has tons of unique pieces and is where I have gone to buy most of my vintage doors and repurposed architectural elements.

You can also find corbels, finials, and doors in your local antique shop, and flea markets. There are always dealers who specialize in architectural salvage, ranging from wrought iron to gorgeous architectural salvage mirrors, columns, fireplace surrounds and more. The more you are out shopping and searching, you will begin to notice more items that can be used to decorate with or be incorporated into your home design.

Hoarding or Shopping Your Local Antique Shop

I have to admit, when it comes to architectural salvage, I tend to be a bit of a hoarder. I just feel like when you see something fabulous that you love, you should buy it. As far as salvage goes, it may hang around a bit while you gather ideas for your decor. You can create boards on Pinterest so you have a helpful series of ideas ready to use when needed.

Otherwise, you will be shopping your local antique stores trying to find the exact thing you need, when you need it. This can become pretty time consuming. I feel like the universe may send you cool things at different times. If you have the storage, I would save architectural salvage before you need know where it might go in your decor.

Decorating with Architectural Salvage

Using old architectural salvage to decorate with can add even more character, uniqueness and a sense of history to your space. Instagram is full of many a layered mantel vignette, with an old window frame or arch as its main feature. They work as a great backdrop to more vintage finds.

vintage corbels

Whatever look you love, you can easily use architectural elements in your decor. Whether it’s a repurposed vintage mantel as a headboard for a bed, or an antique door as a coffee table, these salvaged items can bring a sense of warmth and character to your room. By giving these old pieces a new life, you can create a space that is truly one-of-a-kind.

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  1. These are such great ideas! I love all of the pictures – Beautiful!!

  2. Thank you so much Susan. Architectural salvage is such a fun way to add personal style to your rooms.

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