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Pittsburgh Companies Help People Reclaim/Refurbish Vintage Items

Oct 01, 2017 11:10AM ● Published by Shari Berg

We’ve likely all heard the idiom that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. That catchy saying is just one of many ways to express that something that has become useless in the eyes of one person may hold newfound value and purpose for someone else.

Using reclaimed materials to create something new and refurbishing old items to give them new life has been popular in the region for more than a decade. In fact, it is one of the hottest trends in home decorating. Pittsburghers can find new life for items–or dispose of those they no longer need–through businesses like Construction Junction and Salvaged PGH. 

Brian Cooper, owner of Salvaged PGH in Wexford, first became interested in reclaimed building materials when he purchased an old Victorian-style home 13 years ago. As he updated the property, he sold materials he no longer wanted on Craigslist. “I sold everything and it went fast. That’s when I realized the demand for reclaimed materials, so I decided to go into business,”he said.

But it’s about more than the demand for products that drove Cooper to open Salvaged PGH. “It gives me a chance to save any historic items or craftsmanship from going into the landfill,” he explained. “I want to be able to help preserve things that were once cherished.”

Salvaged PGH focuses primarily on architectural salvage and deconstruction materials. Consumers interested in preserving history–or donating a little of it themselves for use by others–can find a unique offering of vintage doors and windows, decorative items, bath and kitchen fixtures and lighting and home furnishings.

“We look at everything when finding items for our business,” said Cooper. “Basically, anything we can salvage and repurpose. Some things just need some TLC and can be reused for their original purpose, but others have to find new uses. A lot of people want to convert homes back to the Victorian-style models to get away from that ‘big-box’ home look, so we especially look for items to fit that need.” 

Barn reclamation is one of the many things Salvaged PGH focuses on, with reclaimed barn wood from the structures being reused for their original purpose elsewhere, or refashioned into something new and unique. Cooper has used reclaimed barn wood to build furniture and create custom designs for residential and commercial properties. He has used the reclaimed wood to wrap walls in local restaurants and to build custom check-out areas, and to make frames for pictures and mirrors. “We like to consider ourselves one-of-a-kind,” he said. 

Salvaged PGH obtains its products from a variety of sources. Tracy Rittle, Salvaged PGH’s manager, said that she spends a lot of time at estate sales and yard sales, finding small furniture and other items that may just need to be fixed up to be used again. “Garbage night is my favorite night of the week,” she laughed. 

Salvaged PGH also accepts donations; however, there are some items they do not take, like old toilets and railroad ties. Items such as those are suitable for donation to another popular Pittsburgh recycle and reuse business, Construction Junction. The company, which has been in business since 1999, focuses on building material reuse, and accepts everything from old appliances and fixtures to interior items and furniture. A complete list of the items accepted at Construction Junction can be found on its website at 

www.cjreuse.org/donate/materials. 

Cooper and Rittle often pair their talents with other local businesses to help consumers learn the art of repurposing. Do-it-yourself classes on how to repurpose items like old furniture are one of the ways in which they share their love of repurposing with others. “People want to repurpose, they want to restore things, but they don’t know how, so we try to share as much of our knowledge with them as possible,” said Rittle. 

One of the local businesses Salvaged PGH partners with is The Backdoor Furnishings of Wexford. Owner Laura Glatz said that her company offers one to two classes per week, both during the week and on Saturday. “It’s very appealing to people; they are very much into repurposing what they have,” she explained.

One of the ways in which Glatz helps to breathe life into old furniture and cabinets–pretty much anything in a home–is with Annie Sloan chalk paint®. “It can go over absolutely anything,” said Glatz. “We can take any surface and paint over it without any sanding, priming or other prep work first. That’s one of the reasons that chalk paint® is so appealing.”

Glatz recommends that those who are new to chalk paint®, or to repurposing in general, attend the Transforming Ordinary to Extraordinary class she offers, which she says is a great class for beginners. To learn more about classes or to register, visit www.thebackdoorfurnishings.com. 

To learn more about Salvaged PGH, visit www.salvagedpgh.com.

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