Incorporating Antique Elements into Design

I’ve gotten to know a lot of creative people in this business, who shop The Brass Knob for antique architectural elements and incorporate them into something entirely new. One of the best is my dear friend Barry Remley, who owns the fittingly named Salvations Architectural Furnishings.

She was kind enough to send along her thoughts:

Many of my most favorite things in my house—as well as many, many Salvations pieces—started at The Brass Knob! Her shop and all the interesting things in it was the inspiration for the beginning of Salvations—we bought all the raw materials for (my late husband) George’s office there…and that was the beginning!

Ever since then—nearly 30 years ago—she’s been one of my best customers, and I love watching her transform these elements into her exquisite tables and consoles.

She’ll take lengths of iron roof cresting, for example, and turn them into this:

All photography by Jay Mallin, courtesy of Barry Remley

The coffee table above uses cresting pieces from a Victorian home, which would have had a Mansard roof. The rooftop, surrounded by the cresting, was sometimes called a Widow’s Walk, because women would go up there looking out to sea, waiting for their husbands to come home.

Barry also buys lots of heating grates and floor and wall registers. The artisans in her Silver Spring shop apply beautiful finishes to them before they become table tops, which get covered with glass:

Sometimes, the grate will become a secondary level beneath the glass, as you can see here. (The glass hasn’t been inserted yet.)

Barry also purchases shelf brackets to use as ornaments in her furnishings, such as this Viet Console:

These brackets date to about 1890, and were used to support shelves or sinks. But I think they look so much more handsome in this setting.

And then there are the humble drain covers, which again, Barry uses to gorgeous effect in this occasional table:

Just look at the detail in this ironwork, which gets its due now that Barry’s applied a beautiful gold-bronze finish to it:

Barry also uses ceiling grilles as tabletops, which seem downright contemporary when washed in a black finish:

Here’s a better look at this grille:

I hope you’ll bring your imagination when you stop by our shop in Adams Morgan—the possibilities for these beautiful relics go so far beyond their original intended use.