She had me at the first line. “All my life, I have been attracted to junk,” writes Leslie Linsley in the new “Salvage Style: Decorate with Vintage Finds” (Sterling Publishing/Hearst Books; $24.95). With HGTV shows such as “Fixer Upper,” “Flea Market Flip” and “Rehab Addict” attracting newcomers to the world of antiques and collectibles and fueling the ongoing passion for repurposing, Linsley’s latest tempts with both ideas and eye candy.
After all, who doesn’t want their house to be special? And who doesn’t love a treasure hunt? “Collectible items from the past represent an easy way to infuse a home, no matter when it was built or in what style, with warmth and charm,” she asserts. Long a fan of the look, we caught up with her to talk about her ongoing passion for things with a past.
Q. Tell us about the book.
A. “Salvage Style” is all about decorating with vintage finds by using recycled and repurposed material in creative ways. Before it became a style of remodeling or decorating a home, recycling materials like barn wood and architectural pieces from dismantled early homes and industrial buildings was merely a sign of frugality. But over the years the use of an old barn door in a modern home, installing old beams on a contemporary kitchen ceiling, or mounting industrial wheels to a piece of weathered wood to create an interesting coffee table became chic. The photographs in “Salvage Style” show a variety of exciting ways homeowners all over the country have incorporated salvage style into their homes. I included their “stories” about how they became passionate about salvaging, and what they did in their homes along with “how to” sidebars filled with tips, resources and do-it-yourself ideas. All my secret “haunts” are revealed as well.
Q. How did you get interested in the topic?
A. I grew up in a 200-year-old house in Connecticut and come from a creative family. From a very early age when my mother, sister and I would go shopping and see something we liked, my mother always said, “We don’t have to buy that, we can make it ourselves.” And we always did. It was fun creative uses for found objects like an odd piece of wood that had a lovely grain, or hinges from an early house that we came across at a yard sale. We always found a new use for them. I have always been attracted to homes with an eclectic style that can only be achieved when there is something unexpected in a room. I can never pass up a yard sale or flea market and my house is the result of many years spent at local auctions and scouring junkyards.
Q. What do you think antiques and salvage style add to an interior?
A. Reclaiming local, honest materials that tell a story of their heritage has become very appealing. Collectible items from perhaps our grandparents’ era, infuse a home, no matter when it was built or in what style, with the warmth and charm associated with everyday items from the past. They evoke a feeling of nostalgia. But it is knowing how to mix and match that makes it work and that’s what the featured rooms shown throughout the book demonstrate… Worn items are comforting to live with and provide an unexpected aesthetic and personal style.
Q. What does your home look like?
A. Where I live, on Nantucket Island, the houses around me were all built in the 1800s, but my husband and I built our house 30 years ago so it is considered modern. It has been furnished a little at a time and I consider it a “work in progress.” I think all homes should evolve as we live in them. All my furniture came from yard sales, restoration junkyards, flea markets and mostly local auctions except for two loveseats in the living room that are covered with white sailcloth. I have a fireplace that was built from bricks that came from the demolition of a house built in the 1700s. I don’t like anything to match. I have a wonderful pair of leopard skin (probably faux) chairs that I love. I bought them for $50 at a local auction. When you buy things locally, your furnishings and collections have a relationship to where you live.
Q. What do you collect and why?
A. I love pottery and seem to acquire different pots, vases, plates, bowls that I rotate on tables around the house. I also collect small antique wooden, folding, brass tip Stanley rulers. They were all purchased at Covent Garden in London, a sort of open air flea market. I display these on a living room side table. I have a small collection of quilts but my favorite piece of art is a strip of a very early quilt that I had framed in Lucite. It hangs over my bed and is the only artwork or color in my otherwise neutral bedroom.
Q. What are some of the more unusual examples of things put into new uses?
A. Personally I love seeing old doors and windows in new homes. They lend character and there are many examples of this throughout the book. Little things with big impact always provide interest. For example, one homeowner said, “I never buy something that will only look good in one spot.” She likes accessories that are oversized like a weathered clock face found in a Paris flea market. When she hung it on her shiplap living room wall it just made the room. Industrial items are fabulous when repurposed, such as galvanized light fixtures once used in a factory now illuminating a kitchen island. Another homeowner found old gym lockers and used them in her hallway to hold kids’ gear.
Q. Everything I read says millennials aren’t interested in antiques. Do you think this decorating style speaks to younger decorators? Why?
A. I think as they mature they are beginning to realize the value of combining one really good piece of furniture or something repurposed from old materials with newer pieces. For example, they might start out with a brand new kitchen but find that a weathered farm table surrounded by mismatched wooden chairs gives the room personality. It’s all about character. The more exposure young people have the more they become confident enough to express themselves in their interior design.
Q. Do you have a dream find?
A. Actually I found that item a while ago when I was in Florence, Italy. I had just installed two French doors in my office and wanted to find old doorknobs. While scouring a scruffy little flea market in the pouring rain I found two sets of oval porcelain doorknobs. I could just imagine where they might have come from and perhaps the family that created the worn-down look and feel of those knobs. I remember that trip every time I go in and out of my office. Found objects, no matter how small or insignificant can have a big impact on the look of your home.
Q. Future of the style? Do you think it will continue to evolve, and, if so, how?
A. This is a style that’s been around for centuries. It was just never identified as a style. People of all ages have been exposed to good design through the media and the “style” of recycling and repurposing has taken off. The materials stimulate imagination and the more we are exposed to new ideas the more creative uses for decorating with found objects and materials will emerge.
Where to go
Craig’s List, garage and estate sales, antique and thrift stores — all are possible sources for salvaged materials. Other good hunting grounds include the many salvage stores throughout the state. Linsley lists two places in Michigan — Materials Unlimited in Ypsilanti and the Heritage Company in Kalamazoo — in the source guide at the back of the book. Closer to home, check out your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore Store — and Detroit’s Architectural Salvage Warehouse.