The views expressed in this post may be deemed provocative. I stand by them.
To avoid any inference that I am pointing the finger, I will use the original shot of our French house. Well, about 2/3rds of it as street is too narrow and oddly angled to permit a full photo; so even when we finish the facade and make it gorgeous and maybe even desirable. we will never be able to show more than a glimpse of it. Ironic, no?
So, over the decade and more that we have worked on this restoration project I have searched my soul (and much of Europe) looking for just the right materials that will lift our house out of it’s hovel category and onto a more historically and aesthetically pleasing platform, I have bandied the word “reclaimed” around with abandon.
Our idealistic aim to use mostly reclaimed materials was initially compromised by a number of things; like finding the right colours, the right size, the right quantity of flooring and tiles and doors and other architectural elements. This is problematic, unless you have a bottomless purse and nothing else to do with your time than to search reclamation sites online and in person. But then, the more I thought about this act of replacing lost old, original stuff with someone else’s old, original stuff, the more the ethical considerations inherent in taking this route have begun to make me uncomfortable.
Where is this (finite) supply of old materials coming from ? Is taking a 300 year old tiled floor or acres of wood panelling , or a stunning 16thc door or a carved stone mantle or quaint country sink from another property actually ethical? Why is this stuff being stripped out?
I can accept financial need, if you can’t afford to pay your bills and someone offers you crazy money for that fireplace then, yes, of course you’ll take it. I can accept a builder acquiring some character features that the new owner hates and wants out of the place ASAP. I can accept rescuing old stuff from a property about to be demolished.
But what if your ” reclaimed” materials came from a remote rural farmhouse, stripped out and loaded under cover of night? What about the folk who buy cheap houses just to take the features out of them then leave them to fall apart quietly?
There is a beautiful old house visible from the road between Caracassonne and Limoux. I don’t know the story, and I speculate merely (so please do not use the comments section to lecture me), but on the frontage someone has painted words along the lines of “don’t bother breaking in here, there is nothing left to steal”.
If I found out that something I’d bought for this house had been sourced by destroying a feature in another equally old and equally worthy house ( and it was just serendipitous luck that my house has me to love it) then I couldn’t sleep at night.
I am indebted to Bizzyella for the link to this article“stripped village homes”
I respectfully ask you to think about it. That old door and that pretty old floor that doesn’t quite fit your space fitted perfectly where it originally came from.
So I will use new with pride and a clear conscience. Just saying.