Getting Down and Dirty at the Salvage Yard

My family members are die-hard garage sale freaks. This is how we spent our weekends growing up. A large chunk of my childhood was spent picking through other people’s undesirables. This was our idea of fun. Other families played sports, hung out at the beach, enjoyed other normal, healthy pursuits. Not us, my friend. We were junkers.

Which is why I now think a Saturday spent schlepping around at a salvage yard (the garage sale’s cool cousin) is about as good as it gets. I can yap on and on about how earth-friendly I’m being, by finding old stuff and reusing and repurposing it for my garden. But that’s not the real reason I do it. I like salvaged stuff because it’s so freaking cool. And because it’s in my blood. I love finding random stuff and figuring out how I can transform it into something completely different, completely original. And I’m not alone. Oh no– not by a long shot.

One of my favorite local salvage yards is Building REsources in San Francisco. This place is a major hipster hang-out. You may have to shove a few skinny-jeaned-and knit-capped guys out of the way to get at the good stuff, but oh—it’s so worth it. Check out a few of the amazing finds from my last excursion:

I should probably know what this is. I don’t, nor do I care. All I see is some funky, rusty, radiatior-looking object that would be perfect embedded into a rock wall. Or laid on its side on top of an outdoor dining table, with tapered candles shoved in it. Yum.

Old window sash weights would look really neat pushed halfway into the dirt, forming a little edging border for a planter bed. Or dangling from a pergola to form some sort of kinetic sculpture.

Don’t get me started on old traffic light lenses. I’m a sucker for color and circles, so I would use these anywhere: embed them in a patio, afix them to a clear polycarbonate panel to make a poor man’s stained glass window, or screw them onto a fence in a geometric pattern.

Here’s a couple of things that I couldn’t live without, so I parted with some cash:

A bitchin’ manhole cover. This puppy is getting embedded in my front walkway (made of salvaged driveway concrete, natch). I’ll post pics later of the project.

A piece of steel with a “d” cut out of it. Perfect for a girl named Dawn, no?

Okay, these almost came home with me. I figured I would half-bury them throughout my back yard, to add color and some humor. Then I realized that these were no ordinary painted bowling pins. These were juggling pins that belonged to a clown. Clowns are the supreme ultimate in creepiness. I passed.

There is so much fun stuff to be found at salvage yards. And salvaged stuff can work in almost any garden style. Even ultra-modern gardens can benefit from a little age and patina being worked into the design. Roughs it up a bit. But for Pete’s sake, don’t go overboard with junk strewn all over the place. You don’t want the film crew for “Hoarders” showing up at your door. Keep it classy. And never, ever buy salvaged stuff that was used by a clown. That is just disturbing.