Full Q&A with Amy Hughes, owner of Salvage Style at 101 Baker Street in Maplewood, NJ.
For Kate’s Blog post on Salvage Style click here.
Kate: How did you decide to start repurposing & refurbishing vintage furniture and objects?
Amy: It’s something I’ve done since I was a child. Both my mom and dad were big salvagers and repurposers, and I went along with them on shopping trips and helped out in the garage. But I didn’t start doing it professionally until about 10 years ago, when This Old House magazine asked me to show folks how to make new home furnishings out of old house parts. The column was called Salvage Style, and in 2011 it developed into a top-selling decorating book called Salvage-Style Projects. And now I have the store, too!
Kate: Where do you go to find your pieces?
Amy: I go to salvage yards, auctions, estate sales, fleas, and antiques shows. And never underestimate the Goodwill and other non-profit thrifts. If you take the time to sift through it all, there are always gems to be found.
Kate: How would you describe your style?
Amy: Fun, personal, and creative. Home should be an expression of who you are and what you love.
Kate: How did you choose Maplewood, NJ as the home for your first storefront?
Amy: I moved here from Manhattan in December 2012 and was instantly smitten. The Village and local merchants were so welcoming. And I just felt that there was enough funk and free-thinking in this town to support a new kind of design and home furnishings business like mine. This community has a fiercely independent spirit, as evidenced by the lack of chain stores.
Kate: Maplewood is known for it’s small business with everything from children’s clothing, to florists, to eyeglasses. Although there is a wide array, there are a few different furniture and home decor oriented businesses. How does Salvage Style stand out from those?
Amy: Salvage Style is the only shop in town that exclusively offers vintage furniture and accessories, including mid-century and industrial-style pieces. We also create custom furniture made out of reclaimed material, such as a coffee table with a paneled door for the top or a desk lamp fashioned from an old tractor gear.
Kate: What is currently your favorite item in your shop, and what is the story behind it?
Amy: I’m obsessed with this old workbench. It’s made of rock maple and is incredibly sturdy. It was likely made by a DIYer sometime in the 40s or 50s. Most vintage benches are in really rough condition with ground in grease and grime, but this one is pristine. It’d be glorious as a kitchen worktable or serving buffet.
Kate: You have also authored a book and run a design consulting business. Can you tell us a little more about those?
Amy: The book, Salvage-Style Projects, features 22 step-by-steps for creating new home furnishings from old house parts. It also offers advice on scouring flea markets and salvage yards for hidden treasures, how to spot fakes, negotiate discounts, and just about everything else you’d need to thoroughly enjoy yourself while on the hunt.
The design consultancy has evolved from my years as an editor at This Old House, where I went on countless photo and video shoots and produced hundreds of stories about interior design. I love helping people spruce up their homes without spending a fortune on all new things. Oftentimes, my clients just need help pulling together a cohesive look. They’ve got great pieces, they just don’t know how to display them. I find some of the coolest things banished to an attic or garage.
Kate: You recently moved from Maplewood from New York City. What are some of the benefits of moving here, and what have you found to be the best part of leaving Manhattan?
Amy: After years of living in apartments, I love owning a house. We can make improvements without having to vet them first with a co-op board. And we have so much more space to experiment with design.
Maplewood offers such great schools for our five-year-old daughter and future son (I’m seven months pregnant.) The town also just feels right for my family. There are so many creative people here, and it’s even more diverse than our old neighborhood in Washington Heights. The architecture is great, too. Unlike in some neighboring communities, there’s more respect for the older houses. You don’t see many teardowns or these massive houses on tiny lots. There’s a real emphasis on restoration and right-sized living, versus a bigger-is-better mentality.
Kate: What are the furniture & decor trends you are seeing, and what can we expect to see in Salvage Style that reflects those going forward?
Amy: The Hollywood Regency style is getting popular again. It’s still mid-century, but more glam with shiny metals like chrome and polished brass. I’ve been gathering pieces for the store, and so far my customers really dig the look.
101 Baker Street in Maplewood, NJ