Recycling isn’t just for empty water bottles. It’s a vital part of renovating any historic or older home in New Orleans.
And the best part is that this eco-friendly trend can often save you a lot of green. Many materials used in older homes were built by craftsmen or were constructed using standards that would be expensive to recreate today. We thought it would be a good idea to create a primer for renovators who are, well, a little green on all the great opportunities for salvage in our own backyard.
Go to Craigslist.org (neworleans.craigslist.org) and search the “Material” section. Hands down, it’s the best resource I’ve found since I started renovating my flooded home in Broadmoor. The free site is like a giant, community-based classified section on the Web. Anyone can post an ad to sell or buy something. The material section is for people selling surplus items like granite slabs, cabinets, bricks, fireplace mantles, doors, etc. You name it, and it’s for sale on Craigslist. And it’s usually dirt cheap.
On a recent day, someone was selling antique, solid brass doorknobs for $5 a pop. Similar items could cost more than $50 new.
There is also a “free stuff” section that’s hit or miss. I struck gold on it recently when I found an ad for “Free Vintage Wood Molding.” A guy who gutted his house saved all the trim, but he ended up not using it. I’ve been searching all over town for someone who can recreate the curved 1930s molding originally used in my house. Turns out, this guy had an exact match. He gave me enough at least eight windows and doors. It would have cost more than $1,000 to have that same trim matched and milled. Thank you, Craigslist.
Another great resource is the Bank Architectural Antiques on Felicity Street in Central City. The place is an enormous 48,000-square-feet with an impressive selection of doors, flooring, tables, mantels, posts, gingerbread woodwork, stair parts and other small details from older homes in the area. The Bank is ideal for finding stock parts from yesteryear such as brass or crystal doorknobs, escutions and oversized hinges. They have hundreds in bins and many cost only a few bucks. I was able to find several matches of the brass art deco doorplates original to my house at a fraction of the cost of buying new ones.
The Bank also stocks hundreds of cypress mantels starting around $350; for an additional fee, some can be extended to fit wider, modern fireplaces. I found one for $500. It would have cost more than $800 for a new mantle of similar quality.
Ricca’s Architectural Sales in Mid-City is like a smaller, less organized version of the Bank. Located on North Solomon Street, the place is packed with both reclaimed materials and new reproductions. Ricca’s has a large selection of oversized doors and vintage lighting. Like many salvage stores, you really have to sort through the place to find what you’re looking for. For example, many of the windows are stacked against each other outside, so you have to search through dozens to find if any match the style you need. Ricca’s usually has a nice selection of salvaged iron work and claw-foot tubs out back. The place also sells a selection of reproductions of hard-to-find glass and crystal door knobs and locking mechanisms. You can even find refurbished skeleton key locks.
The Green Project, located in the Marigny-Bywater area on Marais Street, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting environmental sustainability in New Orleans by recycling building materials and paint. The store sells donated and salvaged items so the stock changes continually. It’s usually very inexpensive, but shopping there is like going to a garage sale. Sometimes, you can find exactly what you’re looking for, but most of the time you find yourself hunting through items to see if there is anything you can use. It’s great if you need limited quantities and aren’t picky about matching existing profiles and styles. The Green Project has dozens of doors, shutters and windows. A separate lot houses plumbing parts, sinks, reclaimed lumber, flooring and molding. It’s is a good source for older style roofing tiles if you’re looking to replace a few shingles or ridge caps. Because the store’s mission is to promote reuse of all materials, you’ll find modern used materials mixed in with the vintage. Next door, the Preservation Resource Center opened its salvage store Rebuilding Together focusing on vintage architectural materials. It’s very similar to Green Project, but it’s only open Thursday through Saturday. Senior staff at both places is knowledgeable about New Orleans homes and architecture and are eager to help find hard-to-locate items.
A few blocks away on Royal Street, Habitat For Humanity operates the Habitat Restore, which carried more modern used and new building products. The store carries anything from hollow-core doors to ceiling fans. It’s your best bet for finding recycled drywall, cabinets, appliances and other materials at a much cheaper price than Home Depot.
Once you’ve gotten used to recycling materials for your house, consider continuing the habit for home décor. Consignment shops are becoming a popular choice for those looking to refurnish a renovated home on a budget, says Sibel Mann, co-owner of Renaissance Interiors in Metairie. “Our business has gone up tremendously since the hurricane,” she says. “People want to buy things with a little more character.”
The store sells antique furniture, rugs, lamps and other home accessories on consignment at a significant discount and inventory changes daily, Mann says.
Shopping for salvation
The Bank Architectural Antiques
1824 Felicity St.
Ricca’s Architectural Sales
511 N. Solomon St.
The Green Project
2831 Marais St.
2801 Marais St
2830 Royal St.
3815 Veterans Blvd.