Vintage enthusiasts argue that reclaiming old materials saves a homeowner money and keeps the integrity of a house intact. Design trends come and go, but a 1949 bathroom will still be a 1949 bathroom long after shiplap walls have faded from fashion.
Talk to a homeowner like Ms. Carver, whose garage is full of vintage tiles in various hues, and you soon learn that the itch isn’t just about money or nostalgia. It’s about the hunt.
A certain thrill is derived from finding that exact shade of Ming green to patch a spot in your 1924 shower stall, or the pink tub that’s an ideal mate for a console sink. Sometimes, the fun is in the chase, scoring a find on eBay or at a local Habitat for Humanity ReStore, or driving hundreds of miles to claim an item before it heads to the junkyard.
Ms. Carver’s garage now houses not only the lilac tiles (which she describes as “art deco purple”), but other vintage materials she’s collected, including 500 Ming green tiles, 50 in yellow, about 100 pink ones. There’s also a random assortment of classic sinks, including two purple pedestals from 1928 that she found before she bought her current home but are too large for the 15-square foot powder room.
What will she do with all these materials? She’ll probably sell them at some point, since the other two original bathrooms in her 2,400-square-foot house are still in good condition. But does it really matter? “Throughout this past summer, friends are gutting their bathrooms and I’m like, ‘Just bring the sinks over here. I know someone will need them,’” said Ms. Carver, who has become a keeper of the bathrooms other people no longer want. “My family, not my immediate family, but the rest of my family, think I’m crazy,” she said. “For my parents, they grew up with bathrooms like this. It’s not cool to them.”
But for those who find few things cooler than some midcentury steel cabinets, no distance is too far to travel. Molly Evans, a nurse anesthetist from Quincy, Ill., was so excited about two sets of cabinets she’d found online that she drove them 1,800 miles in a Penske truck from Quincy to her vacation house in Palm Springs, Calif. The ranch-style track house was built in 1958 and had a kitchen that had been updated sometime in the 1990s, and Ms. Evans wanted to lean into its midcentury bones.
The cross-country drive was a slog. “Going through the mountains of Arizona was tedious,” said Ms. Evans, 55, who made the trek with a work friend who didn’t want her traveling alone for such a distance in such a vehicle. “You just keep going. You say, ‘OK, I’ve got a vision.’”
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