I died and went to salvage heaven

When a friend at work sent me a link to EarthWise, a salvage store in Seattle, I hopped right on it, because who wouldn’t want to check out architectural salvage online instead of writing technical documents? I had heard about EarthWise, but we’d never been there. So of course, that very Saturday Eric and I made a bee-line to check it out in person, because who wouldn’t want to check out architectural salvage instead of doing household chores?

We were not disappointed. A garden of salvaged delights lay before us, shimmering under this summer’s unrelenting sun.

An assortment of architectural and household salvage items arranged outdoors

Look at all that great stuff!

Where to begin? Eric and I wandered slowly through the outer courtyard. Interesting, oddball, and sometimes unidentifiable items beckoned at every turn. Succulents grew in anything that resembled a container, left to survive on whatever water fell from the sky … which for months has been nothing.

The candy-colored sink display was the first thing to catch my eye. Like Necco wafers. Yum.

Six pastel wall-mount sinks sit on a table in the sun

Pastel sinks in the sun

Bins of chunky chains, rows of rads, stacks of street signs begged to be rummaged through. Rust and chipped paint everywhere. To some, this might look like junk, but to DIY old house people, or anyone with a camera, it’s art! Look at that character and texture. (Click on any photo to enlarge.)

Do you know what this is? I do, because I have something similar in my basement.

A rusty schoolhouse desk side support

Before my time

It’s the side support for an old-fashioned schoolhouse desk—the kind where the seat of the front desk is attached to the writing surface of the desk in back. Here’s mine, which Eric kindly dug out of the basement clutter:

Old-time two-piece school desk

Could use some TLC

A friend gave me this desk because she never used it. I have not used it either. It has sat in my basement for nearly three decades. Pity … it’s an interesting piece. The wrought iron sides say “Aim High” and “Time Flies.” I particularly like the cobweb design. (Click the photo to see it.)

Where was I? Oh yes … back to the salvage. Hey, there’s my mom’s first washing machine! Her admonitions to stay away from that wringer left me with a lifetime fear of getting my hair ripped out. This one had a lever on the side to adjust for different fabrics. For delicates, you simply set it for less time because so they don’t have to endure as much churning.

White wringer washer from the 1950s

Not before my time

I peeked into a series of small rooms that lined one side of the courtyard. The first was chock full of sinks.

Porcelain sinks of all kinds

Sink city

The next room, newel posts.

Vintage newel posts and railings

Old newels

I stumbled upon a box of blue midcentury tiles. These tiles are thinner than today’s tiles, and hard to find. Then I looked up, and—holy cow—an entire room of vintage tiles!

My favorite room was this one with its display—no, art installation!—of heating vents. Now I’m trying to figure out how I could use these intricate vents. My house probably had them originally, but it has had floor vents since before I moved in.

Vintage metal heating vents in many patterns

Such great patterns!

Inside the main building we found the expected rows of windows and doors and salvaged flooring. I was bedazzled by the light fixtures. Now that I’ve had a chance to study this photo, I may want to go back and get one for the bedroom, where a bare bulb has protruded from the ceiling since we removed the old shade.

Glass ceiling lamps displayed in a salvage shop

The beigey one, top center, is similar to our living room and dining room lights.

Isn’t this just the prettiest little toilet?

Porcelain toilet with decorative beading

Can a toilet be charming?

I have a bracket like these in the attic. It holds my hurricane oil lamp … but I don’t have a good place to mount it.

Ornate wrought iron lamp brackets

Don’t have to buy these … got one

In the jewelry department, I drooled over all the doorknobs. The white porcelain ones remind me of the frosted cookies that my great-grandma kept in a jar on her kitchen table.

More jewelry: antique door knobs and their fancy escutcheon plates.

Nearby were several shelves of mortise locksets, most of which had been carelessly painted over. I love the colors, but if you look closely, the ones on the right are gorgeous Eastlake designs. First thing I’d do is to remove that paint and let the brass oxidize.

Unfortunately, we don’t need any of these things, but Eric and I get excited when we see a whole lot of similar shapes in one place … there’s something about the repetition of forms and the vintage colors that makes me want to buy the whole collection, or at least photograph it.

We didn’t bring anything home with us except photographs—this trip. We already have enough stuff around here to open our own salvage shop. But it was sure fun to look!


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