An axe, a fishing spear, a giant mixing blade, barbed wire, a machine base—not the first things that come to mind when you’re redecorating the family room. However, for the better part of the past decade, a growing trend to adaptively reuse industrial remnants as furniture and decorative accessories has emerged. Whether you want to run with the cool crowd or not, using these items as décor adds an element of history and warmth to any room, (even if it’s an axe) and not only that, it’s eco-friendly too.
Last year, I opened the catalog for Roost, one of the leading wholesalers for modern home furnishings, and there were giant metal halide light bulbs on walnut bases, and vintage foundry molds for automotive and railway parts—all meant for purely decorative tabletop delight. This signaled supply meeting demand. However, the supply has existed locally for years prior to my thumbing through that catalog.
Mark Wasserbach and Larry Forman have been trolling the tri-state region for about two decades foraging early farm tools, sand-casting forms (sand casting is a casting process where molten metal is poured into a mold made of sand), molds for just about any metal part, hooks, steam valve cranks and the list goes on. Their shop in Hudson is a great starting point for the inventive mind. Their clientele include fellow shopkeepers, designers, photo stylists and art directors for print and film. I can speak from experience, a sand-casting form at the right height makes for a great table base. You’ll probably have to retrofit the item yourself, or collaborate with someone in the wood or metal trade, but Mark and Larry’s Antiques is the go-to source for raw materials for such projects.
If you’re feeling less industrious, don’t fret, you have options. High Falls Mercantile has been in operation for seven years offering a beautifully displayed mix of old and new home furnishings. They carry the largest selection of industrial décor I’ve seen in the area, and their specialty is old hand tools mounted on custom-made metal display stands. From old kitchen chopping devices, to hand-forged iron tongs, wrenches and eel spears, these items once used for everyday tasks can now retire as knock out tabletop sculpture. And if you’re looking for ways to mix up your accessories, this shop is truly inspiring. It will illustrate, for instance, that you can most definitely pair an antique, broad-headed axe with a soft linen throw in a small space.
Another fabulous resource is Hunter Bee in Millerton. Along with their eclectic mix of early American, mid-century and contemporary furnishings, they also have a selection of industrial pieces: a small water wheel, fan blades and glass fishing buoys, to name a few. In addition, they have been wiring industrial-sized dough mixing blades to be used as table lamps—quirky and very cool. Finally, what really stands out, is their collection of wooden hat molds. Who knew what it used to take to shape a hat?
As it turns out, Sandra Macintosh knew, and still knows.
Sandra is the owner of East Market Street Antiques in Red Hook. Her shop serves as part retail shop, part museum. The collection of items she houses here is quite simply astounding. I dare say her store should be added to the book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Also a sculptor, Sandra arranges and curates with amazing artistry—auto and railroad reflectors, rotary hoes, early kitchen tools, queen bee boxes, and 20 or more different styles of barbed wire. All these items were hand made once upon a time and all are uniquely beautiful.
About a month ago, I walked into the office of my neighbor and commercial landlord, Metconix, Inc., a custom metal shop in Beacon. I needed to ask a question and I instantly forgot why I was there. There sat two of the most amazing objects I’ve ever seen—ribbed and striated, shiny, silver blocks of metal with rounded edges and a worn, black patina. I learned that they were motorcycle engine heads. Metconix had fabricated the display stands on which they sat, and they were about to be reborn as tabletop accessories for one of New York’s most renowned decorators. Ha! Celebrities and hedge-fund managers with motorcycle parts in their living room!
So if you’re in the market for a decorative piece to add character to your home, there are many unusual, wonderful objects in need of good homes (and now you know where to find some of them).
Mark and Larry’s Antiques
612 Warren Street, Hudson, NY
518 701 5382
High Falls Mercantile
113 Main Street. High Falls, NY
800 687 6707; highfallsmercantile.com
21 Main Street, Millerton, NY
518 789 2127; beestyled.com
East Market Street Antiques
25 East Market Street, Red Hook, NY
845 758 9000; eastmarketstreetantiques.com
Nicole Ashey is the principal of Burlock Decorating & Home Staging. She lives in Beacon and is one of the organizers of the art event Electric Windows. For more inspiration and decorating ideas, view her website
www.burlockhome.com or follow Burlock on Facebook.