My House and Salvage
Oct 14
Last week I received a couple of emails from readers with questions. One gentleman wrote the following: "Since you've been around a Portland scrapyard or two, maybe you know: Is there a good scrapyard to find old bikes?"

First of all, what a compliment! Since you've been around a Portland scrapyard or two.... I really like the sound of that! I do know my way around a scrapyard, as a matter of fact, though I unfortunately had to respond that I don't believe I've ever seen a bike at such a place. Bike pieces and parts are occasionally out there, but not often. I recommended that the reader post what he was looking for on, and also check in at MetalWood Salvage. MetalWood works with scrappers, those lovely people who drive around in trucks looking for junk metal to sell by the pound. If this reader could get the word out to scrappers that he would like old bikes, they might dial him in.

The second question, however, made me think a refresher is in order. The reader asked if I had a storefront and if I was available to see his creations. While I would love to see his creations (pics were requested), I let him know that I have a writing presence only, no sales presence. And here's where the refresher comes in. Why do I write so much about salvage? Why do I care about trash creation. And why, for God's sake, do I hang out at scrapyards?

The simplest answer is this: I find salvage, particularly metal salvage, to be gorgeous. My house is a bizarre creation sporting salvage in every room - and it's not limited to metal. Let's have a quick tour.

1. The first structural salvage to enter my house was wide plank flooring (Pic 1). Because it's stunning, and wood salvaged from one barn / attic / storeroom is always different from the wood salvaged from the barn / attic / storeroom next door. I'd been drooling over floors like this for years, and when a party guest yakked all over my downstairs bedroom carpet, I figured, The time is right! Get salvaged wood floors.

That first little bit of salvage got me going. I loved it; it was cool and unique and my own. Soon there was no stopping me. Why buy anything if it didn't meet the salvage / unique / cool criteria? And on I went.

2. Other floors in the house are salvaged from old pickle barrels, and then there is leather flooring upstairs (Pic 2) made from old leather car seats. BMWs, in theory. I have no way of verifying.
3. The roof is rubber from old car tires - multi-colored but very subtle.
4. The front porch post (Pic 3) and outdoor lamp and mailbox (Pic 4) are made by Deform from salvaged metal. These guys are true artists. You dream it up; they can do it. Many of the remaining indoor and outdoor lights are industrial salvage as well (Pics 5 and 6).
5. My back deck is made from 60K pounds of salvaged industrial metal scrap. For good measure I dropped in an old BMW as an artistic statement (Pic 7).
6. My (former) guesthouse is an old shipping container.
7. The sauna was made in large part from the (very small amount of non-rotted) wood from my old deck.

OK, I know what you're thinking. Probably: What a bunch of ugly crap! Who wants old metal? Well, you fell into my trap. There's more salvage out there than old metal. Case in point: take a look at the lovely mid-century knock-off I stumbled across recently (PIcs 8 and 9). I saw this during a barn excavation with a friend in August. While not my thing (um, it's not metal), I pointed it out to my cohort, who has refurbishing skills and two kids in college. They always need stuff. Pic 10 is the reveal. Did you have anything this cool in your college apartment? Salvage, baby. It's all about the salvage, whatever your style.

So, to recap: I don't just like old stuff - I love old stuff. I buy structural metal and hold it and love it until I can work it into a project. And that love of scrap has spread. It has morphed into an interest in trash, curiosity about our throw-away lifestyle, and quixotic efforts to reduce my own trash creation. And maybe influence others to do the same. What I don't love? Working in retail. What I don't want to do? Own a storefront. Deal with inventory and payroll. Be aware of how much I need to sell each month to cover my rent. Not for me. I'm the gal out looking at scrap prices and letting you know where to shop, where to find old pallets, where to find metal at a good price. I'm the gal who will point out the original or knock-off table in the corner and suggest you buy and repaint. I'm an information source, a resource maven. Write to me with your scrap questions, and remember this: I know my way around a scrapyard.
(2) Comments   | Tags: re: Metal+Wood


I had to scroll back up to look at that leather floor. It's gorgeous but what caught my eye each time was that round base for the bed. What was that?

By on 17/10/2015

EcoG -
The round base for the bed is a lazy susan made from bamboo and sorghum with a walnut top. Since I use it for shoe storage, a quick-witted friend named it my lazy shoe-san. Much of the chain and pipe in the room is reclaimed.

By Nancy Ranchel on 18/10/2015

Leave a Comment