Hand in Glove: Shopping for Resources (and Inspiration) in Unlikely Places


We are in the throes of what I would consider the tough part of this build (at least for me): making sure the technical requirements are aligned with the actual construction which is about to hit full throttle. It has made pulling the trigger a little tough at times as I am scared to death of doing something wrong that will result in a costly error (or of equal concern, will illicit an “I told you so” or “what were you thinking?” from my sweet but less engaged husband). As someone who probably shouldn’t be acting as her own general contractor, I am learning a lot but hopefully not at the cost of making a horrific mistake along the way.

One area I do consider to be a personal strength, however, is in finding those over-clichéd “diamonds in the rough.” These might be items we can use in the construction of the house or as part of the décor once the structure is finally complete. No matter where I am, I seem to have an uncanny ability to unearth items that others might not give a second look and imagine “what if?” Sometimes that can result in an interesting but unusable relic that I need to then unload at the end of a project but generally I do make things work in a way that makes people smile or at least say “I would never have thought of that.”

Finds for this house have been sourced from places as diverse as Craigslist, the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and an out of the way booth in a local antique mall. For example, I knew that I wanted a big soaking tub for the master bedroom. I thought the internet might be a source to find such an item at a reasonable price. At a minimum I was sure that surfing the web would at least give me a point of reference in regard to pricing before hitting the traditional stores and outlets.

But the treasure I unearthed after doing a quick search using the term “vintage claw foot tub” was mesmerizing, both in terms of its appearance and back story. An entry came up near the top of my search results that referenced  a “steam punk” tub, a unique juxtaposition that compelled me to at least click through and see what appeared at the other end. Imagine my surprise when the image that popped up showed a steel tub with a rusted exterior patina sitting atop three metal wheels. The description authored by its owner on Craigslist, was equally intriguing. This tub was not a creation of an avant garde artist trying to assemble something simultaneously vintage and edgy, as is most often the case with steam punk. In actuality, this tub was the real deal, over 100 years old and found in a factory in the northeast. But what was up with those wheels? I sent a quick note to see if the item was still available (in fact the description mentioned there were several) and to ask some more fundamental questions about functionality and condition.

Baltimore Ben told me that the tubs had been unearthed in a confectionery warehouse. A century ago, the company decided the best way to move their product around the factory floor would be in a container fashioned after an actual soaking tub. So the company brought in a claw foot tub to create a mold and build dozens of the tub transporters. They were used for decades, only retired for a more modern method a couple of years ago.

Ben said that designers from Texas, New York and Atlanta had already bought some of his inventory to use in clients’ homes (as well as their own). I immediately snatched up the tub you see here. I can’t think of anything more fitting than a steel tub for a steel house. We will seal the interior but leave the exterior in all of its rusty, imperfect glory.

Similarly, I remembered seeing some interesting benches months ago at Urban Cottage on Crestwood Boulevard. The benches were created from old car hoods by industrial designer and artist Ethan Sawyer.  I went back to the shop to see if they had any left and scored this fabulous baby blue specimen.

But not all of my finds are vintage or metal clad. In the process of working on Hand in Glove, I have made the Habitat ReStore in Birmingham (as well as Tuscaloosa) a regular stop. Two of my favorite treasures have come from there. In Tuscaloosa, I found this over-sized fish portrait tucked away in a back corner. When I asked the clerk where it had come from, she indicated that a local restaurant had remodeled and donated it as well as other signage to the shop for resale (I also scored a “Flying Fish” sign that day – perfect for the farm as we have a flying bream that soar through the air above our pond on a regular basis). With 24’ ceilings at their highest point, we will need over-sized art to fill some of those walls and I think this guy will do the trick.

In Birmingham, the ReStore was the place I discovered two solid wood vanities complete with countertop and vintage-insprired faucets. With a new coat of paint, cool knobs and small steel legs to give them an updated vibe, they will rock our “everything old is new again” abode.

But for now, it is time to take a deep breath (and a leap of faith) and get back to the grind of getting this house built to store all of our new-found treasures.

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