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Something Old, Something New For Your Home

May 20, 2008
If you've got a period home it makes sense to reinstate period features. But by their very nature, shops selling contemporary products don't have them. So where can you find the real McCoy and what's available?

With the explosion of the internet, auction sites such as ebay are a good start. If the items are being stored close to you, you should be able to go along and inspect before bidding and winning the item so you make sure you're getting what you expect. Auction sites also ensure you don't pay a penny more than you want to.

Salvage yards are another great option. These tend to get large amounts of materials from buildings being pulled down or streets and other public areas being modernised. They can be great for finding old, weathered bricks (modern ones can look stark and un-homely) and cobbles for driveways and pathways. You'll need to know quantities, measurements and the quality, colour and size that you're after.

Reclaimed floorboards are also a good item to hunt down. But be careful. You will need to know the exact width and depth of floorboard that you're after. These measurements can vary enormously and are crucial to get right to get an even floor that fits and looks original, especially if you're patching up an existing floor rather than starting from scratch. Colour and texture are not as important - any solid wooden floor can be sanded down and stained or polished to get the finish you want. Parquet flooring is also widely available and can look very elegant if expertly laid.

Iron railings can be an interesting buy. Many of these were removed and melted down for the war effort during the second world war, following an overnight Cabinet decision to allow local councils to remove people's garden railings. Even some of Buckingham Palace's railings were used, although presumably with the Royal Family's prior consent. The irony is that the metal was largely unsuitable and so the claimed iron railings were quietly forgotten. You may find some in today's reclamation yards so you can reinstate them at the front of your house. Measurements - both height and length vary enormously as do designs - old park railings are usually plain whereas those from smart houses can be incredibly decorative.

Popular reclaimed architectural features include fireplaces. Timber, marble, stone and iron examples are all available, again in various shapes and sizes. And if you find a grate or a wood burning stove, you can even go back to original, basic heating systems in the winter (but check first that your chimneys are in good working order - chimney sweeps can help out with this).

You don't have to stop with the fabric of the building. Garden ornaments, light fittings, and furniture can all be bought to match the era of your home and can be taken with you if you decide to move on later. These can be fun items to bring your home to life. Even taps, baths and toilets can be polished up and reused for an authentically Victorian or Edwardian look. You can also have fun incorporating hospital or school taps and sinks for a fun oversized, institutional look.

If you want someone else to do all the work and you don't have the time or inclination to track down items then there are craftsmen who can make very convincing copies of period features. Specialist plasterers can produce cornices and ceiling roses to match originals, even if these are ornate and intricate. There are also metalworkers who will produce iron railings and gates that are made from the same materials and look just like those made in Victorian times, but are guaranteed to be straight and undamaged. Stained glass is another area where copies can be just as good as originals if you pick the right craftsman.

Finding original, reclaimed items can be a fun treasure hunt if you have the time and patience. And commissioning a well-made lookalike from a craftsman can also be very rewarding. However you renovate your home it's satisfying to bring it back to it's original look and a bit of history always creates an interesting talking point. So get out there and find something special for your home.
About the Author
Expert home improver India Cooper discusses how with the help of a craftsman and specialist salvage yards you can reinstate period features into your home. To find out more please visit http://www.ratedpeople.com/find/craftsman
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