Interior Design Gets Salvage Savvy

Nia Sayers

Interior designer Linnia Sayers of Summerland Style tells the RE Store why she chooses to work with previously used materials.   Interested in learning more about interior design with second-hand materials?  The RE Store will offer a Green Interior Design Workshop October 9th and we will also present at the Northwest Society of Interior Designers conference October 1, 2010.

RE Store: Can you describe your process for designing with salvaged materials?

Nia: The kind of designing I do is really project-specific. I tend to either design individual pieces of furniture or I work on projects from the ground up. These projects usually have restrictions — be it budget, space limitations or working with materials that have already been salvaged and are waiting for inspiration. I regularly troll the RE Store and have a running mental list of things I need to look for.

RE Store: What are the challenges of working with these materials?

Nia: Often times you have to wait until you collect enough product to complete a project unless you’re lucky enough to find a big enough batch of what you need. It can require a ton of patience. And nothing is ever perfect. There is usually quite a bit of work that needs to go into materials to get them to a point where they are transformed. This can mean extra time, labor, sweat and mess.

RE Store:  Why do you think some interior designers are reluctant to work with used materials?

Nia: Extra time, labor, sweat and mess!

No, really, it does require more patience and vision and depending on the designer’s clients, that could be more than they’re willing to add to their plate. A client’s expectations or disposition can heavily influence whether or not a designer can incorporate used materials. Salvage still carries an “icky” factor to some people. Another reason could be that outlets for finished salvaged material pieces are pretty few and far between. It’s an area that has yet to find a presence. Right now weekend markets are probably the best bet for finding finished products. Also, finding repurposing contractors is tricky since there’s historically no category for that.

Outdoor shower designed by Nia Sayers

RE Store:  How can salvaged material enhance an interior? Can you share an example?

Nia: I think salvaged material enhances an interior the same exact way new materials do. For example, we are in the process of installing slate tile to our kitchen backsplash/wall and wrapping it around our open stair support platform. The tile will be strips of thin, 2″ tall pieces in varying widths. We already installed some in our outdoor shower that turned out fantastic. The tile is a collection of broken bits of 12″ X 12″ slate tile we gathered over time from our contractor friends. We’ll use a tile saw to cut it all to become uniform. There’s no way of knowing that these tiles were broken pieces to begin with.

RE Store:  Could you share a RE Store-inspired interior design success story?

Nia Sayer's salvaged studio

Nia: My work studio is a great example of a RE Store success story. We needed to build an enclosure for our well/filtration system. So we built it big enough to house those components plus function as my office. With the exception of concrete, framing studs & metal roofing — everything was salvaged or second-hand. Concrete form boards and old fencing became

Interior of Nia Sayer's studio

interior walls, washed in an off-white paint (made from partial gallons mixed together) to unify everything but still let the cottage-y character show through. Wood floors were salvaged from the remodel of a 100 year old house. We planed them and stained them dark. The office nook built-in came from the same house. Even the chandelier was a RE Store find that got a facelift.

RE Store:  Do you have any advice for those who would like to incorporate more used and salvaged materials into their interior design?

Nia: The payoff for using salvage is enormous. Taking the time and seeing average materials transform into something completely unrecognizable (in a good way) is tremendously satisfying. Plus every time you create
something from salvage it’s totally unique. There’s not another one exactly like it anywhere. Salvage allows you to truly customize. My advice would be to start small and look for those clients willing to try something
a bit different.