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“It has a lot of potential.” Such a simple sentence. Just a few short words, but those words began a very long journey that will not be ending anytime soon. Or maybe ever.


It was dark and it was raining, and we could barely see the outside at all but what we saw was the most unattractive house I’d ever seen. We could see, however, that it had enough space, lots of fruit trees, some land, and a pool. “It has a lot of potential.” So we bought the house despite all its shortcomings. It needed serious help. The first step? I found some great old windows—leaded glass, etched and colored, tiny and huge.


My plan was to replace all the really ugly, inefficient windows in the house to give it some character (and beef up the energy efficiency at the same time). Most contractors I called for estimates thought I was nuts and pointed me toward the metal sliders at Home Depot with those white plastic mullions. I never called them back. Finally I talked to one who was excited about my crazy ideas and could actually share that quirky vision.


A decade and a half later, the house is still evolving and the same contractor (David Vierra of Finesse, Inc) still puts up with all this (and so does my longsuffering husband!). I’m still collecting windows . . . and doors, and cabinets, and sinks, and tiles, and gates, and chandeliers, and wall sconces, and wrought iron pieces, and old decorative stone and concrete bits . . . Because of this, the house has taken on a very different character now and is truly home.

Ali and Jay

Even Jay Leno stopped by the other day while we were working on the landscaping in the front yard and told us the place was looking good. But I digress. Now where was I? Oh, yes. Salvaged materials. Landscaping.

The salvaged pieces can also be used in ways that don’t involve construction. Even our landscaping is peppered with salvaged materials, including salvaged plants! Since part of the landscape—a rain garden with a drawbridge (formerly two gates) and other fun and funky salvaged materials—was featured in a recent Los Angeles Times article, I’ve talked to several people who are interested in doing similar things at their homes.

Duck and blue-eyed grass

When they ask where I find all this stuff, I point them toward the Pasadena Antique Mall, where we got the 14-foot leaded glass window that started this journey. Sometimes I personally chip reusable pieces out of houses that are headed for a landfill, and sometimes contractors call me about little treasures they’ve pulled from demolition projects. I have also found a few things at some of the Habitat for Humanity ReStores, and in turn donated pieces we salvaged from our own remodeling projects.


A few years ago, though, the ReUse People of America opened a store locally, and I can’t say enough about the affordable salvaged materials I have found there. Consistently.


They “de-construct” (instead of demolish) houses and other buildings, and sell the parts at great prices to people like you and me. According to their website, “TRP is able to salvage up to 80 percent of the materials and channel them back into the marketplace through donations and sales at its network of retail outlets.” Not only does this keep the materials out of the landfills, but it gives each of us an opportunity to use materials of the quality and character that you simply don’t find at the typical home improvement store. Often these materials are hand-crafted and would be out of reach for a typical homeowner.


And because the local store is in Los Angeles, you just never know what will turn up there. We have a huge stainless steel range hood that we’ve named NCC-1701 because it came from Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s house, and cabinetry that came from the remodeled home of the person who was behind Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may be part of the next phase. And of course, more windows.


Fabulous old wrought iron pieces I’ve brought home await installation in a future project, as does a 6 1/2 foot wide chandelier, arched windows and a massive fireplace mantle slated to grace our stone wall in the dining room one day. We already installed salvaged doors with leaded glass in that room, and the improvement was beyond description. I’m looking forward to working on the rest of the room.

Dining room doors

I’m very happy to share my sources because I really enjoy seeing people get creative with salvaged materials in their own projects. Plus, it’s a big city with lots to deconstruct, and there are plenty of great salvaged materials for everyone!

The ReUse People have moved, though, so make sure you have the correct address before you go!

TRP Grand Opening

The Los Angeles store is having a Grand Opening Event on Friday, January 25, 2013 at the new location: 3015 Dolores St, Los Angeles, 90065. Questions? Their phone number is (818) 244-5635.

I visited the new store already, and although they were still getting organized, it’s looking good. It’s a much bigger facility with better layout, which means there should be more materials and they will be easier to find. I’d have to say, “It has a lot of potential!”

The Grand Opening event will be from 11:00am – 12:00pm, and everyone is welcome. The founder will be there, and there will be opportunities to learn more about “going green” from local experts.

I’m looking forward to it, and perhaps we’ll see you there!

Until next time~