Expert Advice: 7 Tips for Sourcing from Salvage with Architectural Designer Tom Givone

We’ve been longtime fans of architectural designer Tom Givone, who weaves handsomely weathered building materials into his renovation projects, whether he’s converting upstate New York barns into events pavilions or sprucing up his own clapboarded Manhattan townhouse. (For evidence, see Givone’s four-year renovation of a dilapidated 1820 farmhouse in the Catskills: The Country Rental: A Floating Farmhouse in Upstate New York.) Here are some surprising ways he incorporates antique parts from his stockpiles into new construction, and why he loves their flaws.

Above: For the kitchen of the Floating Farmhouse, Givone salvaged ceiling beams from a 200-year-old barn in Pennsylvania and found the concrete sink in the basement of a neighboring farmhouse.

1. When sourcing sinks from salvage, consider the fittings.

“I’ve reused antique ones made of concrete, stone, metal, porcelain enamel,” Givone says. “If you need larger holes for modern valves, almost anything can be carefully drilled through or cut by torches.” (Givone used a found apron-front sink in the Floating Farmhouse and installed the fixtures directly into the countertop, negating the need for specifically-sized holes.)

Above: In the bathroom, Givone salvaged a 19th-century wood and zinc bath from a Lower East Side tenement and encased it in stainless steel.

2. Treat vintage baths as focal points.

“New ones can be wrapped in salvaged wood, and old ones can be wrapped in stainless steel. When you have planes of new materials as backdrops, it shifts the dynamics and the antiques become like art objects.”

Above: A shingled eave in the master bedroom.

3. Don’t abandon the idea of salvaged hardware if you can’t find a matching set.

“If the knobs around a room don’t match, as long as everything’s approximately the same age, it still feels like it goes together. Time can be another design element that resonates.”

Above: An 18th-century Italian marble sink, deconstructed.

4. Embrace crookedness.

“A door that’s a little crooked, with paint that’s crackled—the imperfections add to the charm. You’re using the passage of time, in a sense, as a design tool.”

5. Seek out unexpected experts.

“Over my New York kitchen table, I hung a heavy beautiful light that was used at a wharf,” Givone says. “I had the dents in it banged out at an auto repair shop. I get creative about how to repair what I find.”

Above: Salvaged finds in a bedroom.

6. Don’t discard bits and pieces.

Consider it deconstructed salvage. Some ideas for stone and terracotta ornament: “Corbels can be supports for benches. Stone window lintels can be used for steps outdoors,” Givone says. “A white marble slab, maybe from the top of an elaborate buffet, can work beautifully as a hearth. If you find an object you love, get it. You’ll find a way to use it. In the right context, it will be a knockout.”

Above: A guest bedroom.

7. Don’t just go to estate sales—ask to sleuth the estate.

“Doors, siding, molding, that my neighbors threw out—I harvest everything,” Givone says. “When I go to tag sales and yard sales, and there’s nothing out for sale that I want, I ask if I can go into the barn or garage or basement: ‘You mind if I go poke around?’ And sometimes that’s where I find treasure. If you have your radar out, you’ll find things.”

To get the Floating Farmhouse look, see Steal This Look: The Ultimate Farmhouse Kitchen. And for more in our series on salvage, see Expert Advice: What to Source from Salvage, with Zio & Sons.

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