Everything Old is New Again

Your Guide to the Rich World of Architectural Salvage and Rustic Green Floors

Acquiring your first rural property is likely to introduce you to some new things. Louder crickets. More stars. An interest in history. And, contemplation of your floors - whether you’re building from scratch or remodeling.  What is a novice Texan to do? Great news - there are great phone apps for astronomy. There’s a lot of great architectural salvage out there that will introduce you to the past and decorate your future. And, you’ll be pleased to find that the same use of recycled materials can help provide floors that stand up to country life. The crickets? Still no volume control for them - but did you really want one?

Old MacDonald Had a Booth

If you’ve never ventured south of the DFW Metroplex to the AntiqueWeekend extravaganza, you may not have been properly introduced to just what can be repurposed. As a matter of fact, you’ve possibly been admiring pieces in other homes without a clue to their previous lives. It’s not just all steer horn mounts and old saddle blankets that have become part of the look. You might take a closer look at that set of storage cubbies on the wall. It’s quite possible that they started their life a few decades back as nesting boxes for hens. Lean back and admire the aged wood beams on the living room ceiling, and it might occur to you, after a bit of calculating, that they are perhaps 125 years older than the rest of the house.

If you’re willing, salvaged and repurposed pieces are a smart, sturdy, and effective way to add character to your country lifestyle. Let’s look at the possibilities.  

Barnyard Rebounds

One of the most popular ways to use rustic accents in the home begins in the agricultural sector. There’s a lot of common sense behind recycling these pieces. Anything used on the farm needs to be tough, durable, and able to withstand all kinds of adverse conditions. This translates into leftover pieces that may have become obsolete, but that have the structural integrity of a storm shelter in Tornado Alley: they’re nowhere near the end of their lifespan.

Galvanized steel, for example, makes for gloriously practical chicken waterers - and also for repurposed pendant lamps. One might argue that the indignities that are heaped on them during their life in the henhouse add a level of patina that can’t be faked.

“Anything with galvanized steel: feeders, tubs, buckets - they’re solid and good as gold, as far as I’m concerned,” says Kendall Kraft of Kraft Interiors. “Their lot in life is only going to improve. You can’t break them, hurt them, or worry about them losing their finish. They’re perfect, in that sense.”

Don’t be afraid to do some exploring around your own property to see what will turn up. A pressure washer has led Kraft’s team to some amazing finds. “We’ve turned horse troughs into shower bases, installed countless numbers of old metal tractor seats onto bar stools, and converted rusty metal hay feeders into towel racks,” says Kraft, “We even recycled stall door latches into exterior shutter pieces for a guest house last week.”

Out in the yard, don’t overlook the potential of vintage pieces. The trends have been moving away from the custom-built when adding outdoor features like grilling kitchens and bars. Instead, more than one convert to rural Texas life has found their bliss surrounded by recycled and sealed tin and repurposed bricks.

Indeed, what looked pretty awful in its original setting can look amazing in your new home. The best of country living always includes a hat tip to the community and history.

Farmhouse Flips

If you’re appreciative of the aesthetic, but lack the desire to go poking around in dark barn corners, there are many opportunities to purchase pieces in the DFW area - simply look up architectural salvage dealers, or hit some of the trade days that take place monthly. You’ll find everything from raw material to completely refurbished pieces.

Even in a new home, there are smaller updates that can completely shift the focus from the gleaming new hardware and create a more relaxed vibe. One of the most popular? “OMG, doorknobs!” exclaims Lynn Rae of the popular Pansy Patch Hardware booth in Round Top, Texas. “We literally stock tubs of them. Everyone can appreciate a cool piece of door hardware, and they’re easy to change out. They don’t have to match exactly, and they last forever.”

“Storage pieces.”, affirms Kendall Kraft. Everything from old chicken boxes to saddle blanket racks to - oh, milk bottle carriers.” The nesting boxes, often with a bit of mill paint added for color and finish, end up in a variety of upscale homes, where they store towels in bathrooms and supplies in the laundry. “I’ve seen a lot of saddle racks used in lake houses for drying wet towels and such,” says Kraft, “And the blanket racks are great for storing linens that are back from the cleaners and waiting for your next event.”

Gran Impacto       

One of the outstanding aspects of architectural salvage is its ability to make a grand impact. If you’re looking for a focal point in a problematically blank room, or need something to offset a large space, a good salvage piece is a reliable route to take.  Think drama, with a little bit of movie set, and a dose of the Ponderosa Ranch.

Enormous chandeliers for your mudroom? No problem! You might, however, want to consider some of the pieces such as wood columns, oversized doors, and even stone bases - not for any structural use, but for visual impact. If the existing gas fireplace in your guest house leaves it feeling less like a country getaway and more like a soulless city apartment, spruce it up with an antique mantel. Instant warmth, instant charm, instant impact where it's most appreciated.

Don’t overlook some of the other pieces that used to live outside. Architectural salvage vendors can be a great source for old store signs, decorative weathervanes, and copper roof elements. If you’ve ever thought about bringing some of those rugged wrought iron pieces into your new space, you’re quite likely to find a good one.    

Hard Lessons

Acquiring that feeling of well-used rustic elegance can be difficult to achieve. When you’re striving for that perfect look, a lot of home buyers find themselves eyeing their gleaming countertops and tile with a critical eye. It may have never occurred to you that there are also fine pieces of marble, slate, and granite out there - perfect for a kitchen island or countertop. Durable pieces like brass and metal are also useful.  “I had one designer pick up a load of brass kick plates from old hotel doors” says Rae, the hardware expert, “She planned to seal them and use them as a backsplash in a kitchen.”

You’re likely to run across sinks, tiles, and even tubs at a good warehouse. Tiles may need some clean-up, but with the number of older homes in the Metroplex, you’re likely to find them in good condition, especially decorative accent pieces. When you’re dealing with porcelain, it’s already undergone temperatures up to 2400℉ - a few knocks aren’t going to affect it much.

Firm Footing

There’s a real need for the right flooring at your new home. You may find yourself completely rethinking your ideas about your favorites, once you're looking at a country spread.   

“One of the first things clients want to change in any rural setting is the floors - specifically anything that connects directly to the outdoors,” says Jess Velasquez, an interior designer who specializes in ranch properties. “No matter how disciplined they aspire to be, the dirt is going to get tracked in.”

Truth be known, the design world has been shifting towards floor coverings that complement more casual living. Seriously - there are alternatives to carpeting that will blend perfectly with your lifestyle, while still allowing your home to look polished - literally, in some cases. If you’re set on reducing your environmental impact, recycled materials are out there - some rescued from old homes and buildings scheduled for demolition, and some made from components that have lived previous lives.

What Type of Wood is That?

You’ll encounter more than one kind of reclaimed wood when you’re shopping. Some floors can be salvaged - in the DFW area, you’re more likely to find finished floor planks in maple, oak, and pine.  Reclaimed building wood can be pulled from a variety of locations - siding, barn walls, factory floors, timbers...it’s generally old growth wood, so you’re shopping a sustainable product. The difference lies in how it’s reused - the old lumber still has to be recut into suitable floor planks.

Depending on the source of your flooring, you might be privy to a bit of the history of that’s involved - sometimes the seller will know if it came from a particular factory that was demolished, for example. Even without it, you’ll be able to appreciate the traces of the past that are evident in old nail holes, saw marks, and dents. As a caveat: You’ll also see wood floor offerings that are labeled as “distressed” - they aren’t recycled. In this case, all the distressing was done in a factory, and you’re actually paying extra for the added layer of character that the label implies.

Green and Rustic - Even More Ideas

If you’re agreeable to the idea of adding greener elements to your flooring, but want to consider other options, there are also some solid flooring ideas that can handle ranch life and still look great in a variety of settings.

One popular and surprisingly environmentally responsible material is concrete. Although it’s manmade, it is mixed from limestone, which is abundant, and is prepared in limited batches - thus cutting down on waste. It’s durable, extremely energy efficient, and is considered to be a green building product - especially when the surface is sealed, as it would be in your interior spaces.

Sealed concrete floors can be stained and textured to meet any type of decorative requirements, and it’s fabulous on hot Texas days. Installed with radiant flooring technology, it’s warm in the winter, too. No matter what the season, it’s easy to care for and a valuable player in the whole country lifestyle.

Another flooring option that uses green sources for the raw material is tile manufactured from recycled scrap tiles, unused factory leftovers, and even broken-down porcelain and glass from post-consumer content. You’ll not be able to detect a hint of the original materials in the end product, but they look gorgeous and have impeccable green credentials.

We’ll just touch on them, as they’re more widely known, but there are increasing numbers of manufactured flooring choices in bamboo and cork. As hardwood floors, they cover the requirements of easy cleaning and cork, especially, can be very helpful in cutting down on noise in spaces that have a lot of hard surfaces.

A surprise in the sustainable flooring category might be linoleum! Many homeowners don’t realize that it uses linseed oil (thus the name) from flax plants, has lower environmental impact when manufactured, and that all the materials used are biodegradable. Despite that, it’s also very long-lasting, and might be the perfect flooring for some areas of your home.

Living out on the ranch will involve some exposure to new trends, new ideas, and new looks - but isn’t that part of what drew you to your rural property? Enjoy the lifestyle and celebrate the blending of the past and present with an introduction to what’s out there in the world of architectural salvage and green flooring options. You’ll find that your new home will have you feeling as smoothly settled as a cattle dog on a cool floor!

When you’re ready to start your adventure, you can rely on the Chicotsky Real Estate Group to guide you to just the right piece of rural property in the Metroplex area. Their team understands the special requirements that can go into your land, ranch, or equestrian property purchase, and is ready to assist you with every part of the process.