Score a Designer Kitchen for Pennies on the Dollar

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By Marilyn Lewis

Thrifty home-design mavens have been rescuing and re-using vintage home materials for some time. And now the trend is taking a decidedly upscale turn. "The re-use movement is increasingly harvesting newer, more high-end material," reports Seattle's KOMO TV.

Case in point: Savvy shoppers are buying whole kitchens second-hand as wealthy homeowners tear out their upscale kitchens and replace them with newer, fancier versions. The savings for thrifty buyers can be so great that in some cases it pays to buy and move the purchases across the country.

The Bargains

Kurt Petrauska, owner of Earthwise Architectural Salvage in Seattle, talked with KOMO after receiving "granite counters, full pantry and built-in stainless appliances that included a bread warmer" from a homeowner who was remodeling. Petrauska said: "I would venture to say something like that new would be around $20,000. I think it sold for $3,300."

Debbie and Steve Zografos, told KOMO that they spent $20,000, including packing and shipping it from Connecticut, on a used custom kitchen that they estimate was worth $80,000 to $100,000 new. The package included "Dacor double ovens and six-burner range, a Sub-Zero refrigerator-freezer, stainless steel sinks and faucets, a huge island, thousands of dollars' worth of drawer pulls and walls of custom cabinetry designed by well-known Canadian cabinet manufacturer Andre Julien."

Many Advantages

There are numerous advantages to using salvaged and vintage home materials:
  • You can stretch a slender budget further.
  • Remodeling projects have a unique look.
  • You can use beautiful old materials that you might not be able to afford to buy new, even if you can find them.
  • The burden on landfills is lightened a bit and fewer raw materials are consumed by manufacturers.
  • Homeowners restoring period homes may locate hard-to-find cabinets and furnishings.
Green Demolitions, the source of the Zografoses' reclaimed kitchen, calls itself "North America's premier luxury recycler for kitchens, high-end renovation items, showroom displays, and new-in-box overstocks." It has a 43,000-square-foot showroom in Fairfield, New Jersey. CEO Steve Feldman founded Green Demolitions in 2005. In a video on the company's website, he says: "It's a black or white scenario. It's either getting thrown out and wasted, or it's being recycled, repurposed and turned into cash."

How It Works

The Green Demolitions video also features actress Edie Falco ("The Sopranos"), who donated her kitchen through an affiliated nonprofit company, Renovation Angel. Donors can claim tax deductions and direct proceeds from the sale of their gifts to a favorite charity. Falco selected The Sanctuary for Animals, a New York nonprofit, to benefit from the sale of her kitchen. Renovation Angel devotes a page of its site to its success stories.

KOMO describes Green Demolitions kitchen deals: "The typical midrange luxury kitchen they take in runs about $100,000 new. The kitchens are priced based on condition and style and will sell second-hand for anywhere from $40,000 down to $10,000."

Baristanet, a news site covering several New Jersey suburbs, visited the big showroom and found a kitchen selling for $21,000. Valued originally around $75,000, it had blue pearl granite countertops, "a Thermador stainless steel double oven, a 48-inch Viking range with hood, a 48-inch Sub-Zero refrigerator, and cherry cabinets and island."

Make Way for Luxury

Tempting as these bargains are, fitting a recycled kitchen into your existing home isn't necessarily a piece of cake. In its FAQ, Green Demolitions says: "In most kitchens the cabinets are modular and can be rearranged to fit into a different space. As long as you have roughly enough cabinets and enough ceiling height, a kitchen from one home can be retrofitted into numerous different homes." Nevertheless, there are issues to consider. Some guidance:
  • Measure precisely. Buyers must understand exactly what they are buying, including the dimensions of the purchase "because once you get it, it's yours," Debbie Zografos tells KOMO. Measure your kitchen space and draw a detailed layout to plan where you'll place the new components.
  • Be prepared for cleanup. Recycled kitchens and individual components typically are removed and sold as-is. You may not know exactly what you've bought until you receive it. The Zografoses had to clean their ovens and some cabinets.
  • Keep your emotions in check. Don't buy impetuously, advises Baristanet, which writes about a Green Demolitions client "who fell in love with a salvaged Clive Christian kitchen, had it shipped to his home (in) Michigan -- and had two contractors try, and fail, to make it fit in his kitchen. That customer is now consigning that kitchen at Green Demolitions."
Sources and Inspiration

As the desire to recycle grows among affluent homeowners, so do the number of sources for higher-end salvaged goods. Here are some sources and ideas:
  • Ask around. Inquire and search online for builders and architects in your town who might sell cast-offs from remodeling jobs.
  • Period Homes magazine's online directory lists sources for architectural antiques and salvaged building materials.
  • Search online for "architectural salvage" and your city's name. Be on the lookout for all manner of reclaimed home furnishings and construction materials, from doors to cabinets to marble, says online magazine Digital Trends. It won't necessarily be luxe or in great shape, but DIYers often score rock bottom prices.
  • Find inspiration and ideas online at Seattle's Earthwise Architectural Salvage.
  • Eco-officiency lists sources for recycled building materials and home furnishings.
  • Don't forget Habitat for Humanity stores. Use the store locator to find a nonprofit home improvement store and donation center in your city selling used building materials, furniture and appliances. Proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity programs.
  • Search online for local sources of used luxury appliances. Just for example, an online search turned up a link to Highend Appliance, in the Austin, Texas, area. It specializes in "new-distressed and used versions of the sought-after, higher-grade appliances."
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