Transforming “the den” into “The Study”: the wonders of architectural salvage

Our project up in the Albany area has been chugging along for a couple of months now. If you receive our newsletter, you saw progress being made on the geothermal system that is being installed. That portion of the project is now in the home stretch, and work inside the house is ramping up.


Demolition of concrete basement floor
We’re not kidding about the pickaxes flying.

Even though there is a lot of work going on now—ripping out walls, sawing through beams, hammering concrete floors—the most exciting part is not the hubbub, but the little, quiet corners that sit away from the flying sawdust and swinging pickaxes. More specifically, what is sitting in these corners: all of the great salvaged pieces that will be going into this home. After many hours in the car and many miles on the road, we’ve scored some truly unique finds. It’s incredible how much these details can make a house sing, and give back a personality that has been all but obliterated after being subjected to too many “improvements” and “updates” over the years.

Architectural salvage pieces can give back the air of historical accuracy that tends to get stripped from the great older homes that dot the countryside (or the cityscape) in our little corner of New York. It’s a bit of a Möbius strip of house renovation, though: if people didn’t remove these older elements from their homes, we wouldn’t have a supply to pull from. But then again, if people didn’t remove these older elements, we wouldn’t NEED a supply to pull from. Chicken or the egg type of deal. Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked. Let’s look at all the pretty stuff!


Pair of salvaged transom doors Pair of salvaged transom doors
Transom doors! Both useful AND lovely to look at.

This pair of doors with their glorious transoms still attached will be going in on the first floor. If you’re lucky enough to find a home that has transom windows, the majority of the time the windows have been painted shut. Or sheetrocked over. Or just removed altogether. People don’t seem to realize the potential of these little windows! They allow for light and airflow throughout a home, and are actually one of the ways to passively increase your home’s energy efficiency. You heard it here first: transoms are going to make a comeback. Their benefits are so great, I can’t imagine why they ever went out of favor in the first place. Not to mention, they’re just really neat!


Salvaged glass pane indian door Salvaged glass pane indian door
The “Indian door.” Notice the latch at the bottom to pull the protective panel over the glass panes.

Speaking of doors, check out this green cutie that was salvaged in Yorktown, PA. Termed an “Indian door,” the origins of its name might erase some of its cuteness. Supposedly, this type of door, where a panel attached to the bottom half of the door can be swung up to cover the windows, was a form of protection against raiding Native Americans during our country’s formative years. Some hasty Googling has revealed nothing in terms of whether this is the case or not. (If anyone knows anything about this type of door, enlighten me in the comments!)


Salvaged Cherry wood wall paneling Salvaged Cherry wood wall paneling
Solid Cherry wood paneling. I can almost smell the leather-bound books from here…

And lastly, plank after plank of solid Cherry wood wall paneling. This stuff is gorgeous. Solid. Cherry. Wood. Did I mention it was SOLID CHERRY WOOD? I can’t hide my jealousy, so I’m not even going to try. Several rooms in the house will be sheathed in this glorious stuff, including the upstairs study. Did you know you technically can’t call a room a study unless its paneled in glorious solid Cherry wood? It’s true. These panels were another great find over in Pennsylvania and they will truly transform the rooms that are lucky enough to get the paneling treatment. I’m just going to say it one more time: solid CHERRY WOOD. OK, I’m done.

Solid Cherry wood!

OK, I’m done for real now.

2 thoughts on “Transforming “the den” into “The Study”: the wonders of architectural salvage

  1. My grandmother lived in a house built in 1745 in Lancaster County, PA along the Conestoga River. I did a report on her home when I was in middle school. She explained to me that her kitchen door was an “indian” door and showed me how part of the bottom panel of the door slid up over the glass of the top half. There was a ledge that the panel locked into. Much of the glass in her home is the original glass and you can see the bubbles, the slight swirling and the imperfections of the colonial glass.

    • Hi Mary! It’s so interesting to hear that the explanation for this little door isn’t fiction. Thank you so much for sharing! She didn’t happen to mention the reason behind the “Indian” part of the name, did she?

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