Raw Salvage

I first heard about Big Daddy’s architectural salvage and antique business from Reuben’s blog Rancho Reubidoux and had been itching to check it out ever since, which I finally did about a month ago. The contrast between the natural world and the man-made, that tension partly explains why I think salvage can sometimes be so bracing when included in gardens. Decrepit, man-made objects falling apart in a garden that will continually renew itself and go on in some form without us, there’s rusty poignancy to be exploited there. But you’ll have to refer to Reuben’s photos to view some of Big Daddy’s selection of gorgeous architectural salvage. Because what did I come back with?

Photos of sweaty mannequins in T-shirts and random chair groupings.


Out of all that cool shit, here’s where apparently I felt the need to point my camera. Was it sensory overload? Sheer contrariness? Who can say?
But needless to say, I didn’t blog about that visit.


At Big Daddy’s every object was uber cool, desirable, collectible. And the prices reflected the work and knowledge* that goes into sourcing these objects, the transportation and then storage in the warehouse until sale. Rightfully so. And not pricy exactly, but certainly more than I can afford. The only other shoppers I noticed were designers who loaded up vans full of stuff intended for clients or maybe their own antique shops. I wandered around, got those silly photos, and drove home feeling slightly defeated. Do we all remember the days when we found this kind of stuff dirt cheap and usually had the bonus of some colorful story to tell about the acquisition too? I know it’s still out there somewhere, but someone always seems one step ahead of me, putting a hefty price tag on it before I get there. I know, I know, it’s big business now. Get over it, I scolded myself driving home through this heavily industrial part of town.

And that’s when I found another warehouse just a few streets away, a kind of boneyard of the Industrial Revolution. Massive machines of forgotten purpose, some beautiful, all filthy, some towering 15 feet high. I’m not completely sure why I find this stuff so terribly exciting, but would guess that it’s similar to the affinity for the shape and design of plants in response to their environments. That kind of beauty and ingenuity and singular purpose can also be seen in the hulks of cast-off machines. But while the machines are mesmerizing, they’re terrifying too, which just adds zest to the adventure, that tug between repulsion/attraction. Praise be to OSHA/Occupational Safety and Health Administration! was a recurring thought as I wandered through the hangar-sized warehouse for an hour, resolving to come back with my husband later to get his opinion on some things of interest. And also to get his opinion as to if I was or was not crazy to find this place spectacular.

Yesterday we finally made it back, and he affirmed it was indeed all that spectacular.
I brought home this little rolling tool cart I’d seen the first visit. For staging plants, yes, but also to move around heavy containers. Indestructible.
I’ve seen these sold as rolling bar carts for hipster lofts at eight times what I paid.


And a heavy, welded basket that sifted god-knows-what.


And a clamp-on lamp that needs cleaning and some other bits, but I ended up putting back more than I brought home. There’s some industrial shelving I desperately covet that’s priced a little high, although still amazingly cheap. I think the owner sells by the pound. I selfishly want to keep what I call Morlocks Machinewerx (for the subterranean, machine-mad creatures in H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine) a secret until I own that shelving, but that would be incredibly unfair to the owner who could use the business. It’s called simply Hick’s Machinery. Go there and be amazed at the relics of America’s manufacturing might.

Whenever possible, I prefer my salvage raw.


*For a look at the costs of sourcing “junk,” check out this LA Times article on the lawsuit against Restoration Hardware for mass-producing the curated discoveries of Obsolete, a collector’s mecca in Venice, California.

This entry was posted in design, garden ornament and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Raw Salvage

  1. reuben says:

    Denise, maybe it’s because I read this post while at work and am dead-tired, but didju name the alt warehouse of industrial goodness? I missed it and it sounds awesome! Also, I love your Big Daddy pics; very ‘the waiting room of man parts’ … lastly, Obsolete in Venice is my long-time fave for the really high-style outré objét … sadly, I can only lust after them for the short time I’m there, then walk away. The budgét never allowing actual purchase …

  2. Denise says:

    Reuben, I did name it — misspelled it at first then corrected it. I don’t dare step foot into Obsolete. Thanks for getting me out to Big Daddy’s. I hope I didn’t make it sound out of reach as far as price. Some of their gardens pots were a good deal.

  3. Les says:

    Cool finds, both the stores and what you brought home. That’s a great color on the cart. I love a good treasure hunt, but hate to pay, so I am not above a little dumpster diving when the opportunity presents itself.

  4. reuben says:

    D’oh! I see the name of the store now; I was clearly in the throes of my afternoon slump when I first read your post, Denise … Thanks

  5. Matti says:

    Totally agree…Rancho Reubidoux rocks at finding some of the coolest stores. Man, your pics are awesome. I heard we have one here in SF too…and I have not been yet. Crazy talk. Need to hit that place soon. Matti

  6. ks says:

    Denise, that turquoise cart thingy is very cool indeed. And the basket ! Great scores.

  7. Grace says:

    That cart is way cool, Denise. Major score. The basket/sifter thingie is especially enduring sitting by the kitty cat. I know what you mean. Every now and then I get to a garage sale before the sharks and score big time. Then I think I’m hooked and want to go garage sale-ing all the time but I’m just not that dedicated–just one of my many neuroses. 🙂

  8. hb says:

    The cat looks like it is appraising the new object for its nap-time potential. But I guess cats look at everything that way, don’t they?

    Nowadays with everything (or so it seems) mass-produced (badly) in China, old, unique, beautifully crafted items have a special appeal. A trend RH is apparently latching onto, and having those beautiful, unique old objects…mass-produced in China.


  9. Denise says:

    Matti, can’t wait to see what you find in the the BD’s in SF.
    Kathy, there were other tool carts too…
    Grace, you are the Queen of Cast-Offs! I never pull over for yard sales cuz I’m too embarrassed to walk away without buying, so I’ve got plenty of my own neuroses!
    Hoover, yes, that cat lives on these tables and was sizing up the space invader. RH is really stirring the pot.

  10. Denise says:

    Les, that color on the cart came out different in each photo, but it’s more greenish, like in the second photo.

  11. laguna dirt says:

    that place looks great! i’m getting scared to go to those places anymore since my goal is to start shedding stuff. but who could resist? that cart is amazing, both color and patina. thanks for sharing such a cool resource!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *