What, When Where: Revived Relics

By Debbie Hagan

About a month ago, a designer called me, desperately searching for the manufacturer of a set of end tables he’d seen in New England Home‘s January/February 2012 issue. He described the apartment as all white, the furniture slipcovered and the end tables “kind of square, bleached and having this great texture…â€Â Ah yes, I remembered the story: a Boston high-rise apartment designed by Weena & Spook.

Photo by Keller + Keller

And I remembered the tables–blocks off of Boston’s old Battery Wharf.

As I said this the designer groaned, as it seemed unlikely he’d find a pier to salvage in Vermont. “They are just so perfect.â€

Well, yes…and no. Granted, they’re perfect for this room and maybe for the project he had in mind, and yet they’re not perfect. That’s a good thing. They bear the scars of sitting under blankets of ice and fighting raging saltwater, as well as enduring seagulls, moss, barnacles and straining ropes. These hardships shaped them into objects of beauty.

I guess that’s why I love almost anything that’s repurposed–be it this cupboard by Concord, Massachusetts, artist Richard Dunbrack, built from salvaged materials from a Vermont gentleman’s farm…

Bellows Falls Express by Richard Dunbrack

…or a bench made of recycled timber.

Recycled Timber Bench by Arhaus

I really love this Iron Console Table, also from Arhaus. I have no idea how it was originally used, but my imagination can conceive all sorts of possibilities.

Iron Console Table; photo courtesy of Arhaus

The same is true of this piece that appeared in our September/October 2011 issue. What a beautiful aged patina this salvaged piece has, reminding me of oxidized copper–and its shape is so sculptural, like a whale’s tail (perfect for a coastal Maine house, don’t you think?). Other than knowing it’s stamped with a French location, I  know nothing about it or what function it served, but just knowing that it’s a part of history, representing labor and human ingenuity, is inspiring.

Interior designer Dennis Duffy; photo by Eric Roth

Being the daughter of craftspeople who always seemed to be clutching a ruler or measuring tape, I found this artwork by Tim Yankosky to be a delightful surprise, in addition to evoking some visceral emotions. I saw it about a month ago in Three Graces Gallery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  At first I thought it was simply a lined and incised sheet of steel, but looking closer, I realized it was an assemblage of vintage steel measuring tapes (easier to see from the side).

I Know Not What I Do, 2011, Tim Yankosky

Photos by Tim Yankosky

Perhaps it’s my own love of words, history and books that draws my eye to yellowed paper and delicate script fashioned by a fountain pen, seen in this work by Rachel Phillips. She combines black-and-white photography with vintage envelopes, part of a current show, Process and Dreams, going on now at at Panopticon Gallery in Boston.

Quincy, Massachusetts, by Rachel Phillips

Oh, I could go on and on about how recycling is good for the environment, good for the mind and maybe even good for the soul, but ultimately reviving old objects is a lot of fun and adds something unique and personal to the home–something we all strive to achieve. By the way, I’m looking for an old church pew for my kitchen…just in case you happen to see one.

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