There's an interesting article on architectural salvage in the April/May 2007 issue of Remodel. I've enjoyed browsing these stores for years; you can find doors, windows, stairways, hardware, garden furniture, fireplace mantels, mirrors, cabinets, garden furntiture, magnificent bars, store counters, and more. We've bought hardware, stained glass windows (we used one to replace an old air conditioning wall unit), pillars (which we never used), and a beautiful 1920s green bathroom sink for the new house.
"The three things people find most appealing about using [it] are aesthetics, fine craftsmanship, and reuse of materials," says Steve Hruskocy of Salvage One in Chicago.
I recycle everything I can, but it's the beauty, character, and practicality of these surviving pieces that I love. You can look through salvage stores in New York City, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Denver, Berkeley, CA, and Portland, OR. There's more info on these places in the article (they all have websites, btw); and I've visited stores in DeLand, FL and in Louisiana. Here's a link for the Building Materials Reuse Association online directory: www.buildingreuse.org/directory And I've bought hardware and other things online. Now and then you can buy pieces from a house or building that's going to be razed; I have a piece of a portico from part of a building that was torn down. There's a whole lot of salvage from other countries available too.