It’s hard to argue with the beauty of a crisp new aesthetic, tastefully infused with salvage pieces that tell a story of long ago. The modern farmhouse look has taken over televisions, Instagram feeds and Pinterest pages alongside the Gaines’ family – who knows a thing or two about decorating with shiplap and vintage finds. With such an influx of appreciation for new and old, we thought these tips could help you hit it home on your next flea market hunt!
Brian McCourt is a contractor, design expert and co-host of HGTV Canada’s Backyard Builds.
Go Off the Wall
Some of the best salvaged installations happen when an item is used for something other than its intended purpose. Like turning a vintage door into a tabletop, or an old Singer sewing machine into a table base. Get creative with your finds and create something truly unique. Pictured are ceiling medallions that have been repurposed as well decor.
Widen Your Search
It’s always that last piece of the puzzle that is impossible to find – hours upon hours of searching for the perfect something. When scoping out a specific item, widen the geographical distance of your internet search to increase your chances of finding it. Places like Habitat ReStore often have special finds at great prices, with many locations throughout the country. Lastly, don’t be afraid to road trip beyond your city in search of antique stores and flea markets – rural shops often have the best deals!
Have a Place in Mind
Sometimes we come across a piece that we fall in love with, but we have no place for it, and then it just sits in the garage or basement for years! Resist the blind buy because it often ends up as a dust collector.
Bring Your Samples
This rule applies to all types of sourcing. If you’ve already decided on other design elements in your space, then bring samples of those elements with you when scouring for vintage scores. Sample paint chips are often too small for reference, so I like to bring a larger painted piece of cardboard to help coordinate before the buy.
Unify Your Space
Ok, you went a little salvage-happy and just can’t control yourself… and now you’re left with a mismatched house that lacks consistency. No psychoanalytical hoarding speech from me – we can fix this without bringing up your childhood and keep the coveted finds! How? Paint all of the room’s walls and trim the same light hue to unify the space. This will bring consistency to the table and won’t distract from your salvage finds. But seriously, stop shopping.
Let it Acclimatize
When adding wood pieces like mantles and corbels, let them sit in your home for at least a week to acclimatize to the air before installing. Wood expands and contracts, so it’s important to install the piece after it’s had the chance to get comfortable in its new home. This will help avoid shifting and splitting to ensure the wood stays perfectly intact.
Make it Safe
Ground wires were introduced in the 1950s and 60s, and if you have no idea what a ground wire is for, think of it as the voltage police. If there is an electrical fault, the ground wire will send currents to the main electrical panel which ‘trips the breaker’ (turning it off), and in turn, avoids disaster. Salvage lighting is still worth considering, just have the electrical updated by a professional. Tip: If the light fixture only has two wires, it doesn’t have a ground wire.
A great way to infuse some salvage love into your space without spending tons of money is by adding vintage cabinet hardware onto your new cabinets (look for hardware that’s had time to patina). Everyone will be asking where you got your cabinets from even though they have the same IKEA cabinets at home.
It’s not popular Canadian practice to barter because we are a notoriously polite bunch. But, nine times out of 10, you can save a good chunk of dough when shopping at salvage sources – and these vendors expect you to offer less! You’ll only feel silly the first couple of times, and then it’ll become fun. “I only have four dollars on me, would you accept that?” *Pulls out $20 bill and asks for change.*
Old dressers are often not the easiest to open. The drawers’ wooden rails were typically rubbed with candle wax to help them slide. So take note and rub wax on the slides every now and then. Nowadays we open every drawer in sight, just to shut it to see if it has a soft close mechanism – we’re obsessed. Well, you can have it all by making new drawer boxes with modern gliders and attaching the salvaged drawer front to the new box so the overall look remains the same.