Remodeling Your Kitchen With Salvaged Items

If you're remodeling your kitchen, consider using salvaged items to add character, go green and trim your budget. You can keep pieces of your old kitchen, or you can scoop up bargains at estate sales, salvage shops or online.


Recycling Your Old Kitchen

For most homeowners who don't have a professional connection with a salvage shop, the most budget-friendly angle is to incorporate parts of your old kitchen into your new one. Consider this approach if your current kitchen already has character but simply needs a facelift, says Joe Schneider, owner of J.A.S. Design-Build in Seattle. "Let's assume it's a nice old bungalow kitchen that is just dated and falling apart," he says. "I might reuse some nice old cabinet doors, an old pastry slab, a piece of butcher block or a bread drawer liner." Other items to consider:

  • Lighting
  • Windows
  • Doors
  • Cabinet hardware
  • Flooring, if it's wood and can be refinished

"Don't reuse cabinets unless they are constructed as independent boxes," Joe says. “Many old cabinets were literally built on site and have no backs.”

A final note of caution: Joe doesn’t recommend keeping half your kitchen simply to save a few bucks, especially if you're hiring contractors and the pickings are slim for materials. "If you're going to go to the expense of ramping up the project and bringing in a team of people, you might as well get a new kitchen," he says.

Hitting the Salvage Circuit

If your own kitchen doesn't offer intriguing possibilities for recycling materials, you can still find cool items to incorporate. One money-saving possibility is to browse your local stone supplier's collection of remnants, which are often discounted and can be used as island toppers, butcher blocks or pastry slabs. (Just don't piece them together to try to create a whole countertop.)

In general, however, hunting outside your own house for salvaged treasures isn't a money-saving proposition and it can be a bit of a hassle — but scoring a great find at a salvage shop, an estate sale or an online vintage retailer, such as, will add presence to your kitchen and prevent waste from going into the landfill.

For ideas, check out these kitchens from J.A.S. Design-Build:


©JAS Design-Build

JAS Design-Build

In the dining area above, the table is made from an old bowling alley, and the blackboard on the wall was salvaged when a school was torn down. "These old blackboards have ghosting that tells you about their past," Joe says. "You can still see things that kids wrote on them, and we've seen some from old music rooms that still have the horizontal lines running across. You could hone them if you wanted to, but why spend the money when this is so much more interesting?"

The dining room attaches to this kitchen:


©JAS Design-Build

JAS Design-Build

The 44-inch stove is a vintage Wedgewood model. Overhead, a refurbished old iron floor grille covers a high-powered vent fan in lieu of a hood.


©JAS Design-Build

JAS Design-Build

Practically every inch of this kitchen is made of reclaimed wood: The wall cladding came from a salvage yard; the ceiling and the island’s big timber top were constructed from beams from an old warehouse; the fireplace mantel is an old piece of natural-patina timber that was left outside to weather; and the 1” x 12” flooring is salvaged fir. Even the enameled cast-iron kitchen sink was a find the homeowners brought with them from their previous home, and the globe lighting is from — where else? — an old school that underwent renovation.


©JAS Design-Build

JAS Design-Build

The end panels on this island are actually cut from a door in the owner’s old kitchen; the top is made from reclaimed fir. The overhead lighting is salvaged from a warehouse. The island is part of the kitchen shown below:


©JAS Design-Build

JAS Design-Build

Joe designed this kitchen around the columns and bookcases that divide it from the dining area — all reclaimed pieces with real character that he purchased from a salvage shop. Also note the backsplash behind the stove, where pots hang across a stainless steel rod: another clever way Joe repurposed an old school blackboard.

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