Decorating With Salvage!

A chat with Mary Anne Carter of Second Use, Seattle

My favorite part of any project is the shopping part.  Even a new sport.  Once I’ve purchased the cute new outfit and the equipment I’m pretty much done.    Ooooh, those weights come in colors?  And then I lose interest.

So when I learned about upcycling (see one of my previous blog posts) I was excited about the shopping element.  I’m always trying to bring things into the house and my family is always trying to get rid of them.

I hurried over to meet with Mary Anne at Second Use, whose motto is:  “Reclaiming building materials for reuse in the Puget Sound region since 1994.”  We browsed the store’s offerings to see what might appeal to readers of this blog and folks interested in furniture.

Mary Anne, in an important bit of information, revealed to me that she collects vintage hats.  I love Mary Anne.  Anyone who collects vintage hats is all right with me.  This is Mary Anne in one of her spiffy hats and the vintage hat rack she has her eye on.

Mary Anne from Second Use


I wondered why I felt so at home at Second Use.  It suddenly hit me that a store full of salvage was comforting because it reminds me of my childhood.  My father was a scrap dealer.  He referred to himself as “the original recycler” (he also like to jog before it was fashionable.)  My mother referred to him as an MD.  (Metal Dealer.  I think she was less than comfortable being the wife of the junkman.)  Here is my dad, or Pops, as my kids called him, at his scrap yard around 1960.

Pops Salvage


Some of my best childhood memories involve riding along as he hauled a truckload of car bodies and other discarded metal items to sell in Portland.  We drove up Highway 99, as I5 hadn’t been completed yet.  Yes, I’m old enough to remember a world before freeways. We’d stop at a few of your finer scrap dealerships to unload the merchandise and then celebrate at a fancy restaurant in the big city.  So I have more than a passing interest in salvage.

Mary Anne showed me some of her favorite items at Second Use and we considered how they would be handy, vis-à-vis sleeper sofas, furniture and decorating in general, which is what this blog is about, after all.

First we looked at foundry patterns from the late 1800s.  These were used to cast molds at a foundry in Everett.  Second Use has over 10,000 of these molds.  I had never heard of foundry patterns, but all of a sudden I see how I could need many, many of these appealing shapes for……well, I’m not sure what for.  And that is what the Foundry Pattern Project Gallery is for.

Foundry Molds for Decoration


Foundry Pattern Project Gallery


Here is a project that a clever Second Use customer, Carma Gael, created using foundry patters.  A handy dandy coat rack.

Foundry Pattern Hat Rack


Who knew you could do so much with molds?  Pinterest has a slew of ideas for working with them and lots of vendors sell them on Etsy.  You can make clocks, book ends and wall art from foundry molds.  They can be used as shelf brackets and lamp bases.  Foundry molds regularly win the Miss Congeniality Contest and have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.  Well, maybe not.  But still, there is a lot to love about foundry molds.  And should you be ever so hesitant to get started, Mary Anne has created a guide for the perplexed right here:

Another Second Use favorite:  letterpress trays.  They once held moveable type, but now are available to help us create an instant art display.  Fill them with teeny objects and hang them on the wall.  I have a houseful of teeny objects.  Mr. Gutenberg was so forward-thinking!  I’m a fan.

Letterpress Salvage for Decoration


Second Use carries old hardware, like these 12-sided vintage crystal knob-sets.  Imagine what these would do for your humdrum door.  Changing your knob set is a quick and easy way to redecorate your living space using salvage.

Vintage Crystal Knob-Sets for Decoration


Some of Mary Anne’s suggestions for quick interior design inspiration:

  • Add caster sets to furniture to make it easily moveable.
  • Old industrial letters make unique wall decor.
  • Experienced gardeners know you can upcycle old sash windows as cold frames.
  • Repurposing cabinets is a popular way to incorporate reclaimed materials into a remodel.
  • An old trunk is a great coffee table that also includes storage.

Here are few more fun finds at Second Use.  Who doesn’t need a few life-size mannequins and a vintage typewriter?

Mannequins for Decoration

Vintage Typewriter for Decoration


Mary Anne explained even though you might not choose to furnish your home with a used sofa or mattress (for me, the ick factor is too high) (plus we own a furniture store—but still) you can add interest to your living space with quirky accessories salvaged from someone else’s demolition.  A coat of paint and some new hardware can make an old chest of drawers into something unique and eye-catching.  Full disclosure:  I’d be paying someone to do the painting and the changing of hardware, but I would still call it “my project.”

Some of the perks of repurposing building materials:

  • Salvage saves you money.
  • Salvage saves you time.
  • Salvage saves energy.
  • Salvage saves value.

And, if those benefits are not enough, consider this:  Decorating with Salvage is very chic.  And we are all about chic, aren’t we?

About Meryl Alcabes

Twenty-five years ago, Meryl Alcabes launched Also Furniture with her husband Carlos. They were new to retail and new to the furniture industry, so the first few years of business were a challenge. However, with her art school background and gregarious personality, Meryl loved the combination of meeting new people and helping them design their living spaces by focusing on appropriate colors and styles for each situation.

When Meryl and Carlos were first married and found their dream apartment in San Francisco, they could only afford one new furniture item a month. The very first thing they purchased was a sleeper sofa, which they used as a bed at night and for seating during the day. After a few years in the furniture business, Meryl realized that sleeper sofas were a must for most apartment and condo dwellers, and they were hard to find—so the couple decided to specialize in sofa beds and Sleepers In Seattle was launched.

Two of Meryl and Carlos’s sons, Max and Jacques, have since joined the firm, which has expanded in many directions with Savvy Home. Meryl’s interests include photography and collage, in addition to cooking for her family and friends and frequent entertaining. Dinner table discussion always includes furniture talk and speculation about when their third son, Raphael, will join the business.
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