Ideas For Decorating With Salvage

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Shabby-chic, French country, vintage, repurposed, picking, salvage..there are tons of names for taking old materials and incorporating them into your home. It can be as easy as getting a great deal on a piece of furniture at the local antique fair, but to create the truly eye-catching conversation pieces it requires re-thinking the materials you have into something unique and special. So we’ve put together some salvaged projects to get your creative juices flowing. And if you need more ideas you can always follow our Pinterest board “Salvage Projects We Can Make For You” which is updated almost daily with new repurposed ideas for your home…

1. Architectural Salvage 

Probably the easiest ideas are finding interesting and sometimes large pieces of salvaged architectural elements and simply cleaning them up and displaying them in your home. Item like these corbels make perfect shelf brackets. Just pair them with an old piece of wood and you’re done.  Old wooden signs can make fun wall decor. Tin shingles can become a vintage backsplash. The options are as endless as your imagination. Look for a piece that interests you and try to find a creative and different way of using it.

2. Windows

There are piles of old window sashes at architectural salvage yards around the country just waiting to be put back into service or turned into something useful again. And at $20-$40 a pop they can make very affordable projects! This table with stock cabinet legs and old door hardware is just one simple idea for giving them a second life. Other ideas we’ve done include replacing the glass with mirror and creating a bath vanity mirror, painting the glass with chalkboard paint to make a To Do or grocery list, or turning it into a collage of pictures on your wall.

3. Salvaged Wood

The natural patina that wood gets as it ages gives it such a rich look that it makes almost any project feel warm and inviting. Sliding doors, table tops, chairs are all things that can be easily created by someone with basic carpentry skills. Just add a little stain, finish the wood to your choosing and you’ve got a wonderful piece of distressed furniture that Pottery Barn would charge thousands for.  Shipping pallets are another great source for rustic wood to use in your projects and they are in almost endless supply near dumpsters everywhere.

4. Vintage Hardware

Old hardware has countless uses around your house. You may want to upgrade your existing boring door, window, cabinet, and any other hardware to something with more character or find other more creative uses for it. One of my personal favorites is this curtain tie back made from old door knobs. Another fun idea is attaching old fixtures to a piece of salvaged wood or an old door to create a coat rack, jewelry rack or a place to hang anything you might want.

With a little creativity you can add some very unique decor to your home. And if you really get into it you can even start your own Etsy story selling mason jar lamps like one friend of ours. But the best part of using salvaged materials is that you save one more piece of history from the landfill and give its story a second life in your own home.

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by Scott Sidler

I'm a historic preservationist and licensed contractor. I help old house lovers understand & restore their homes so they can enjoy the history and character that surrounds them more everyday! When not working, writing or teaching about old houses I spend most of my time fixing up my own 1929 bungalow with my wife Delores and sons Charley and Jude.


  1. Toni on said:

    I’m so excited to start going to salvage yards and flea markets to find items to repurpose. But I feel my ideas are bigger than my knowledge. Haha! Going to check out your Pinterest board for ideas! 🙂

  2. Charles on said:

    That table from old shutters was a cool way to repurpose funky shutters,but doesn’t that old paint chip off sometimes? That can be really dangerous for little kids crawling around, getting their hands dirty with them and then putting fingers in their mouths. Read about lead paint dangers at

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