For Cape Codders, the day after Memorial Day means just one thing: the 4th of July is just around the corner and we are down for the count to get the house ready for summer.
I admit I am a junk diva. I brake for tag sales, I pick up discarded furniture on the side of the road and I love architectural salvaged pieces. In my eyes, this is not junk but treasure that can be up styled and given a new life! No matter what your style, modern contemporary, Swedish Country or Shabby Chic, what makes interiors interesting is the unexpected, mixing old and new. It adds character to your home.
Our house is a 125-year old gray shingled Cape farmhouse. We decided to renovate by updating our kitchen and family room with a more open, loft like feel. However, it was very important to keep the integrity of the original home.
As we opened up a wall in the kitchen, behind it was another wall of hidden bricks that looked like an original chimney! On the other side was our dining room, so we decided to open up that wall as well and, to our delight, we found the original fireplace. It was like stepping back in time. Especially exciting was when we noticed each of the weathered bricks was imprinted with “The Barnstable Brick Company.” I immediately did research and found out the company was started in 1887. In its heyday, they manufactured 2 million bricks annually. It operated until 1933. At that time a new national standard for brick sizing came into play. West Barnstable bricks were 1⁄8 of an inch too short and being forced to buy all new equipment to compete, they sadly were forced out of business and into bankruptcy.
Two months ago on Ebay one of these bricks sold for $59 with the caption, “own a piece of Cape Cod History!”
We exposed this beautiful fireplace with all of the bricks and, although, it is not a working fireplace, we cherish it! I used the remaining bricks for the backsplash in our kitchen.
We also opened up the ceiling in the connecting family room to make a cathedral ceiling and found the most beautiful original beams. I imagined 125 years ago the builders putting these up and how for all these years they have held that roof securely for all the families that preceded us.
We ended up repurposing these fine beams. One was used for the fireplace mantel; the others embellish the doorways and moldings. One we even used for the base of our giant pot rack. Pieces of the house’s rich history were given a new life!
There are always ways to salvage old things without discarding them. An old weathered barn door makes a fabulous slider door or closet door. I have also used them as headboards. Vintage mantels, shutters, windows and doors can all be repurposed, adding character to your home.
And don’t be so quick to kick Grandma’s old furniture to the sidewalk. Keep in mind that old furniture was made by craftspeople, not mass manufactured with poor materials. There are fabulous paints that are so easy to use, no prep needed and environmentally safe, 100 percent VOC free! These are the Annie Sloan Chalk paints and I have found two other paints available right here in Falmouth: Amy Howard Paints, available at Eastman’s Hardware and Heirloom Traditions available at D’s Home Again. Both have beautiful color selections. Add some new hardware and voilà a fantastic “new” addition to your home. Picking up used furniture is reasonable, I never miss the Waquoit Congregational Church Flea Market each summer, it is a treasure trove of fantastic antiques priced to sell!
Whether it be a vintage piece of furniture, an architectural find, each one has a history and a story. Salvage, repurpose, redesign and let the story continue…
Ms. August is a lifelong summer resident of Falmouth as were her parents and grandparents before her. Her production company is Summer Girl Media and her Interior Design firm is Nancy August Interiors. For questions and comments, please go to her blog www.talesfromasummerhouse.com.