Home Touch: Old materials charming, but hard work

Mary G. Pepitone
Universal Uclick
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Reused, recycled and repurposed materials give new life to residential remodels. For some homeowners, it’s not all about out with the old and in with the new when upgrading their home’s interior, says Judy Mozen, a master certified remodeler, green certified professional and president/founder of Handcrafted Homes Inc., based outside Atlanta.

“From my experience, people who remodel their homes using reclaimed wood or tiling want these personal touches to reflect a unique sense of style,” Mozen says. “Aside from the sustainability aspect of using salvaged materials, homeowners also love telling the story about the old wooden mantel or reclaimed barn beams.”

Scavenging twosome Ryanne Hodson and Jay Dedman moved from San Francisco in 2009 to Luray, Virginia, after buying a home that was in foreclosure. Since that time, the couple has renovated three houses in the area, which are within driving distance of Washington, D.C., and nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Their first renovation continues to be their private home, while the other two homes have become short-term vacation rentals.

“Not having a lot of money forces you to be resourceful, and this translates to repurposing other people’s trash into beautiful furniture, shelves, beds, flooring and art,” Hodson says. “(Materials) can ultimately be cheaper, but turns out, it’s going to be more meaningful than just buying items new at the big box store.”

Years of neglect and so-called improvements by previous owners in all three of Hodson and Dedman’s properties had to be stripped away to reveal each home’s inner beauty without compromising upgrades in modern technology and conveniences. A home remodel using reclaimed materials begins with solid craftsmanship, and is a way to bring a bit of an “old soul” into a newly remodeled home.

For Hodson and Dedman, using reclaimed materials in their remodeling projects also required hard work and sweat equity.

Kitchen reclaimed

A repurposed soapstone laundry sink resting on a heartwood pine barn beam cabinet is the showpiece in the 1850s-era farmhouse kitchen owned by Hodson and Dedman.

“The largest soapstone quarry in the United States was in Albemarle County, Virginia, right down the road from where we live,” Hodson says. “The quarry ... made a very popular, deep basin laundry sink that was a mainstay in Victorian houses throughout the east coast.”

Refuse reused

What’s old can be made new again after Dedman reclaimed piles of beautiful heartwood pine, sycamore and dark walnut woods from an old Victorian home that was being torn down in the Luray area.

“We were allowed to help clear debris and scavenge anything we could haul in terms of flooring, beadboard, scrap wood and fixtures,” Hodson says. “The bathroom sink cabinetry at the farmhouse is made of the heartwood pine ceiling boards from that very building.”

Building built-ins

To create a clean, yet cozy home, Hodson and Dedman built in details that used solid, modern-day craftsmanship, made with reclaimed wood, during the remodel of their 1973 A-frame house. Salvaged barn beams and paneling were used to create a custom-made sleeping sanctuary in a nook of the home.

“Rather than buy some (bunk beds),” Hodson says. “We decided to make a more unique and sturdy set that should last for generations.”

Custom cabinetry

Today’s open-concept home calls for a clean kitchen design. With open shelving and custom-built butcher-block countertops made from salvaged dark walnut, Hodson and Dedman had a watershed moment of inspiration after sourcing a stainless steel commercial sink from a restaurant supply warehouse for their A-frame home.

“Kitchens can get pricey,” Hodson says. “We were able to make a small, European-style kitchen into fully functioning space — to just make coffee or cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner — for a fraction of what most people spend.”

By investing in slightly used appliances, this kitchen with a modern flavor is one that doesn’t cut corners in taste and functionality.

Warm wood flooring

Reclaimed wood flooring builds a home’s character from the ground up. Southwestern-style terra-cotta tiles were cold and out-of-place in Dedman and Hodson’s rural Virginia cabin loft.

“After copious amounts of blood, sweat and tears, we were able to lay salvaged heartwood pine flooring throughout the whole house,” Hodson says. The use of reclaimed flooring opened doors to hanging solid, salvaged Douglas fir five-panel doors rescued from an old Victorian home.

These doors became the gateway to creating more privacy within the home and added old world details to a modern remodel.

Mozen says that using reclaimed materials during a remodel doesn’t always save dollars, but for some homeowners, it just makes sense. “Homeowners can have a real feeling of pride, in that these old materials aren’t being cast into the landfill,” she says. “There’s also something very calming about surrounding yourself by architectural details that tell a story.”

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