Architectural Detail

Best Architectural Salvage, September 2005

Historical accuracy is fine, but the most gratifying benefit of restoring that old house to its prewar splendor is the harmony that comes from living in a space that feels right. The key is finding good architectural salvage. Downtown’s Freeway Building Materials could use some restoration itself, and Santa Fe Wrecking focuses mostly on the bathroom. Olde Good Things opened this year just south of downtown with an impressive collection of decorative elements—pressed-tin ceiling tiles, stained glass, wrought iron—from the East Coast and Buenos Aires. Silverlake Architectural Salvage recently made an even stronger debut, offering 8,000 square feet of enormous entry doors, built-in buffets and hutches, wood-frame windows, and antique ovens. For overall selection and expertise, however, Architectural Detail in Pasadena is supreme. Owners Skip and Janice Willett’s 15,000-square-foot warehouse is packed with well-preserved vintage toilets, baths, sinks, doors, hinges, escutcheons, doorknobs, heating registers, hardwood flooring, windows, tile, even old-growth redwood retrieved from local remodeling and demolition sites. (Thousands more feet of roofing and other materials are stored off-site.) True, much of the warehouse is limited to employees—“We expect people to know what they want when they come in,” Janice says—and kids are forbidden on the premises. But the Willetts are deeply knowledgeable and indispensable when you’re looking for a pristine deco tub or a full set of matching solid-core doors. “We fine-tune, fine-tune, fine-tune,” Janice says. “We try to help people restore their house to as close to the original as they can.”