Tag Archives: antique hardware

Unlocking the History of Skeleton Keys

Not a day goes by at Southern Accents that someone doesn’t stop in and pick up a skeleton key… sometimes two, three or a whole handful! Many customers are looking to replace a lost key to open their old door. Others are looking for the small keys that will fit the lock on an old antique cabinet while others just seem to have a fascination with antique keys and are looking to add to their collection. And then there are the jewelry makers… the use of skeleton keys in hand crafted jewelry is currently a hot trend. Once again, tapping into our love of history, we did a little research on keys.

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques

The purpose of a skeleton key is obviously to open a lock. Skeleton keys, also known as pass keys, are designed to open numerous locks, most commonly a warded lock. While some believe that a skeleton key derived it’s name because of it’s shape and resemblance to a skull, the name actually comes from the fact that the key is stripped down like a skeleton to it’s most essential parts: a cylindrical shank with a single rectangular tooth. The shank can be solid or a barrel shank which resembles the barrel of a gun.

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques

This photo shows an example of a barrel shank and a solid shank skeleton key.

The first locks and keys were made of wood and can be traced back to Babylon and Egypt. The locks and keys were large, heavy, and impractical. Aside from the weight, the wood locks were susceptible to brut force attacks. The wood devices were eventually replaced when engineers from Ancient Rome improved the design and began using iron and bronze which provided a stronger, more reliable lock. The keys were smaller and the devices became more practical. Little changed in the design of the mechanism until the mid 1800’s when Linus Yale Sr. and Jr. introduced the modern flat keys. Skeleton keys, however, continued to be used in most houses until after WWII when the pin tumbler lock (or Yale lock) took over. You will find that the doors in many homes built in the 1940’s and earlier still have functioning mortise locks operated by skeleton keys.

Antique Lock and Key

This heavy iron lock from Germany and oversized skeleton key sits in one of the front windows of our showroom. The large 8.5″ key is shown next to a normal sized skeleton door key.

Our fascination with keys lie far beyond their practical use. Keys unlock more than just doors. There are many Biblical references to keys, including the passage in Revelation 1:18 where Jesus proclaims to hold the keys of death and Hades. You often hear someone refer to their true love as “holding the key to their heart.” Dignitaries are presented with the key to a city as a symbolic gesture of good will. The Gothic trefoil design found in many of the earliest keys is symbolic of the Holy Trinity. Whether a young boy proudly carrying an old skeleton key in his pocket or a woman sporting one around her neck, there seems to be something magical about keys… it is as if the revealing of some mystical treasure or deep dark secret awaits, that only the right key will unlock!

Perfectly Imperfect

Visiting Southern Accents showroom is like taking a step back in time. Our showroom is filled with architectural antiques. Beautiful hand carved mantels and solid wood doors that date back 100 years or older. Crystal chandeliers and antique brass pan lights hang from our old tin ceiling. Metal drawers lining the back wall are filled with salvaged door knobs and hardware. Newel posts and stair case spindles fill a room upstairs while a separate warehouse out back houses old wood shutters, corbels, columns, windows, tin and a wide collection of other architectural salvage. Aside from being really old, all of these items have something else in common… they are all perfectly “imperfect”!

Age has a way of leaving it’s marks. As we age, every line, wrinkle, and scar creates character and reminds us of our past, both good and bad. Architectural antiques are much the same. Each item has scars… dents, dings and cracks unique to each piece. These imperfections not only create character, but help tell the story of that piece. Our job is to rescue these magnificent architectural elements and give them a chance at a second life. Our customers do not come to our showroom looking for perfection. Our customers are looking for those pieces that speak to them. They appreciate the flaws and respect the history of each piece.

mantel258The mantel shown above, which is has been stripped and sanded, along with the items shown below and all of the other wonderful architectural antiques you will find when visiting our showroom are waiting, in all their imperfect glory, for a second chance to grace someone’s home or business. If chipping paint, rusty iron, and old barn wood ignite your senses… Southern Accents is definitely a place you want to visit!



Southern Accents – A Designers Delight!

We love working with designers, especially those who share our passion for salvaging and preserving architectural treasures. We are fortunate to have worked, and continue to work, with some very talented designers, including Samantha Oaks from Nashville, Tennessee. Samantha came to us recently upon the recommendation of her client! She was looking for a set of doors to use at the entrance of a listening room. Not only did Samantha find the perfect set of doors and hardware for this project, she also walked away with a second pair, which she converted to sliding barn doors, as well as an antique mantel for the clients home.

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques

The set of doors that Samantha selected for her client’s listening room was originally covered with several layers of black and white paint. Although the doors were too short for the 9′ opening, Samantha was drawn to the character of the doors and was determined to find a way to make them work. We stripped all the paint from the doors, which revealed the gorgeous wood grain and detailed carving. Samantha came up with the idea to use iron window grates at the top of the doors. Not only did this solution balance the height, but it also allowed light to stream through. Being a big fan of vintage hardware, Samantha chose the fantastic antique handle which added the perfect finishing touch!

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques

When asked what it was about salvaged architectural items that appealed to her as a designer, Samantha replied, “Having migrated from New Orleans to Nashville I’ve always had a vision and affection for architecturally salvaged items. Anything with a story of it’s history that needs a little extra love and a new home fascinates me. I also love looking at an item that can be repurposed into something it was never intended to be or adding an element that makes it shine brighter than it ever had before. I gravitate towards textures and blending them together in a simplistic and sophisticated way.”

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques

Samantha also told us that the use of salvaged architectural items was one of her favorite elements that she often includes in her custom designs. She loves incorporating vintage items into a new construction to create a truly unique space for her clients.

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques

We loved working with Samantha and think that the finished project looks amazing! You can find Samantha online at lucienporterdesigncompany.com. You can visit Southern Accents at sa1969.com or visit our showroom in historic downtown Cullman, Alabama!

Samantha turned these two salvaged doors into sliding barn doors for her client's new home.

Samantha turned these two salvaged doors into sliding barn doors for her client’s new home.

The antique mantel Samantha selected from Southern Accents added the perfect finishing touch to the new family room.

The antique mantel Samantha selected from Southern Accents added the perfect finishing touch to the new family room.

The “What” of What We Salvage

A question we are often asked regarding our salvage projects is, “What all do you salvage from a house?” To answer that question… We will salvage any architectural element from a structure that can be safely removed in good enough condition that we believe can be reused or repurposed. Architectural elements can include any or all of the following: doors and accompanying hardware, door frames with trim, crown molding, wainscoting, fireplace mantels, sinks, tubs, light fixtures, wood flooring, floor joists, baseboards, wood walls, wood beams, newel posts, stairways and railings, decorative wood trim, decorative tile, ceiling medallions, porch posts and columns, windows, garden gates, iron fencing and at times brick and stone.

Quite often, before we can begin a new salvage project, the first thing we do is remove items from the house that have been left behind. Most often these are small items or furniture that have been stored away in the attic. Once these items have been removed, the real work begins. When salvaging a house, we basically “deconstruct” it. The first elements that we remove are typically the last elements that were installed in the house such as interior doors, mantels, bath and light fixtures. Once these items are removed, we then begin pulling the wood. We start at the top of multi level structures and work our way down. The last items taken are structural elements such as wood beams, columns, and posts.

Most often the property owner will schedule a demolition company to come in right behind us. If we are salvaging brick or stone from the structure, we will often coordinate those efforts with the demolition crew.

We are typically given a set amount of time to save what we can. At times we may only have a single day! Several years ago we were given the opportunity to salvage wood from a house that was scheduled for demolition. We worked hard for a full day pulling as much wood as we could. We arrived on day two to continue our efforts only to discover that the fire department had already set the structure ablaze! Once we begin a new project we work as efficiently as possible to ensure that we are able to save as many elements as possible.

We believe our work here at Southern Accents is truly preserving our history through salvage. We’ve recently added items to our New Arrivals page that were saved during phase I of our latest salvage project. In the coming days, we will be returning for phase II. Make sure you are following along with us on our social media accounts as we continue what will be our largest salvage project to date!

Here are a few of our latest finds!

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques


Southern Accents Architectural Antiques

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques


Southern Accents Architectural Antiques

Ball & Claw

A search for claw foot tubs on Pinterest will return an endless list of gorgeous tubs. These tubs, which evoke a sense of elegance and serenity, are gaining in popularity. Most of the tubs sit on 4 feet and the majority of the feet are some form of a “ball and claw” design. We have customers come to our showroom on a regular basis looking for tub feet. What most don’t realize is that the tub feet are not interchangeable from tub to tub!


Southern Accents Architectural AntiquesQuite often a customer will visit Southern Accentsshowroom looking for replacement feet or a single foot to replace a broken or missing leg on their old tub. When shopping for a single replacement foot, you must bring one of the feet with you in order to find an identical match. If looking for a set of feet, you will need to bring the actual bath tub to ensure a perfect fit. Tubs are custom fitted for their specific feet when cast therefore each type of foot has a unique peg connection, peg length, and curvature of the top of the foot that must match your tub.

When purchasing an antique claw foot tub, ensuring that the tub comes equipped with properly fitted feet, will save you a lot of headaches and disappointments!

Our collection of antique tub feet includes a wide variety of designs ranging in style from simple to very ornate. The heavy iron feet also make great door stops and book ends! We’ve even seen them used on coffee tables and other furniture pieces. A little imagination is all it takes to come up with creative ways to repurpose these fabulous pieces! Stop by our outdoor lot and browse our unique collection of antique claw foot tubs and tub feet!

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques

A Little History

History has it that the ball and claw foot design was originally derived from the Chinese. The claw symbolized the foot of a dragon guarding a pearl, a symbol of wisdom, from evil forces. The design was introduced in Europe through trade and was popular in the early 1700’s. While England favored a lion’s paw, American designs, which were popular until the late 1700’s, favored an eagle’s talon. Antique furniture experts can tell the origin of furniture pieces featuring this foot design by the character of the ball and claw feet. Many of the feet, like the one shown to the left, have an embossed makers mark. These markings, when present, can help identify when and where the feet were cast.

Written by: Lisa Jones

Knobs Of A Different Color

Knobs Of A Different Color

Southern Accents owner, Garlan Gudger, Jr., has a fascination with door knobs. He’s been collecting them since he was a child. Much of his prized collection is on display in the SA showroom in Cullman, Alabama. While Garlan is passionate about salvaging architectural antiques, question him about the door knobs and you will discover that he has a wealth of information along with many interesting stories about them. One such story is a tale about porcelain knobs that serves as a stark reminder of a period in American history that will never be forgotten.


In the early 1850’s, a variety of mineral knobs were patented in black, white, and brown colors. The knobs were made of porcelain mixed with minerals which created a material that was harder and more durable than its wooden predecessors. These knobs were commonly used in rural farm homes, as well as the service areas of wealthy plantation homes. The tale that has been passed down through door knob collectors is that the color of the door knob indicated who was allowed to enter. People of color were allowed to enter if the door knob was black. White knobs designated “white only” entrances and a brown knob symbolized an entry accessible to both skin tones. If you visit an architectural salvage store, there are always more black and white porcelain knobs than brown, a fact that lends credence to this tale.

History is written for those yet to come. The accurate recording of historical events is important lest we forget. While we do not know if the tale of the colored porcelain knobs is factual, it does serve as a reminder. A reminder that we live in a country made up of a remarkable diversity of creative people. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques

The beautiful brown porcelain door knob shown above is known as a Bennington knob. These knobs were created in a factory in Bennington, Vermont. A mineral was swirled with a brown clay mixture to create a unique pattern. While all brown knobs with this swirl pattern are known as a Bennington, a true Bennington knob has a cream base and is a nice, rare find!

Written by: Lisa Jones


Five Dollar (And Under) Finds!

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques

Southern Accents is an architectural salvage store, but walk in our showroom or visit our website and you will quickly see that we are SO much more! We have a fantastic collection of small salvage items that lend themselves perfectly to creative DIY or salvage art projects. All of the items shown above are $5 or LESS!!

When on a salvage mission, quite often there are unique, small items that we are able to rescue. There are also a lot of small items that are architectural in nature that we remove directly from the house or structure whenever possible. Salvaged door knobs and hardware, skeleton keys, tin shingles, staircase spindles, small trim pieces, even salvaged wood scraps… all of these small items can be repurposed. We’ve seen so many creative ideas from our customers and others who have turned these items into everything from beautiful jewelry to unbelievable works of art.

The holiday season is just around the corner. Unique, handmade items are a great way to give a gift that has meaning. Now is the time to start planning for and creating those gift items! Stop by our showroom or visit our website and take a look at all of our unique finds. Our “$5 and under items” typically go quickly and are only available while supplies last! And, when you finish your work of art… send us a picture! We LOVE to see what our customers do with our treasures and would love to share your creations on our Pinterest and Facebook page for others to see! Send pictures to info@sa1969.com

Salvaged Hardware

When thinking of architectural salvage, the first thing that comes to mind are all the large architectural pieces like doors, mantels, ornate gingerbread and large columns. When Southern Accents salvages any property, we do our best to take every usable item that can be safely removed from the building. This includes hardware. Naturally, we take all the hardware attached to the doors, but we also take it a step further by removing hardware from windows, wall heaters, cabinets, and shutters. We are continually amazed with all the creative ways our customers reuse and repurpose these salvaged hardware items!

Southern Accents has one of the largest collections of salvaged hardware in the Southeast. These bins are filled with salvaged brass, glass, and porcelain knobs.

Southern Accents has one of the largest collections of salvaged hardware in the Southeast. These bins are filled with salvaged brass, glass, and porcelain knobs.

Walking through our showroom you will see one of the south’s largest collections of hardware on display. While rare, one-of-a-kind pieces may be in a show case, you will also find bins, buckets, and wood crates filled with fun and unusual hardware pieces. Door knobs made from brass, glass, porcelain and iron are plentiful at Southern Accents. We have hinges that range from a primitive farmhouse style to a solid brass embossed design from the Victorian era. Upstairs our hardware displays glitter with brass door plates in all shapes, sizes, and styles hanging from metal pegs. We delight in watching our creative customers “dig” to find just the right hardware item for their latest project.

Scattered throughout our showroom are buckets and boxes full of wonderful old hardware!

Scattered throughout Southern Accents showroom are buckets and boxes full of wonderful old hardware!

Much of the hardware that we salvage can be cleaned up and reused as it’s original purpose. Customers walk in to our showroom weekly looking for door knobs. They love the vintage look of the old knobs that for many bring back childhood memories of visits to their grandparent’s home. Others relish the thought of contributing to the sustainability of our planet by reusing existing items whenever possible. And then there’s the artistic, crafty crowd that love to take pieces of old hardware, completely repurposing them into wonderful, unique items. Seeing the hardware pieces walk out our door and later return as a piece of stunning jewelry or part of a unique work of art thrills our own creative souls.

Mickey Davis is one of several artists who uses salvaged hardware to create unique works of art and usable items. Mickey's works, along with the creations of several other artists, can be found in our showroom.

Mickey Davis is one of several artists who uses salvaged hardware to create unique works of art and usable items. Mickey’s works, along with the creations of several other artists, can be found in our showroom.

Stop by our showroom to view our entire collection of hardware. Visit our Hardware page online to view some of our vintage and antique pieces. Browse our Pinterest page to see some of the very creative ways old hardware is being used and repurposed.

Whether you are looking for knobs, plates, hinges, pulls or just odd bits and pieces... we have a lot to choose from!

Whether you are looking for knobs, plates, hinges, pulls or just odd bits and pieces… we have a lot to choose from!

Let’s Talk Tubs

Southern Accents Architectural AntiquesDid you know that remodeling your bathroom or kitchen provides more return on your investment than any other interior upgrade? If you are considering remodeling your bathroom or are involved in a new building project, have you considered antique or salvaged bath fixtures? If not, you should!

If you have perused any of the home decor magazines recently, or spent any time on Pinterest, you have surely noticed a trend towards vintage bath fixtures. Pedestal sinks and large claw-foot tubs can easily give any bathroom an aura of opulence. We get a lot of customer questions regarding reproduction versus antique bath fixtures. What you may not realize is that you can purchase a 100 year old, cast iron, claw foot tub and have it refinished for about half the price of what you would pay for a new one. Don’t let those rusty looking old tubs turn you away! The rusty tubs shown above can easily be turned into the elegant tub shown to the right. Southern Accents Architectural AntiquesWe work with some of the best refinishers in the southeast. Rust spots, scratches and even some breaks can be repaired. These tubs can also be painted on the outside to match any home decor.

There are two ways to plumb out antique tubs and sinks. The first is to retro fit them using antique faucets and plumbing. Antique plumbing may not match today’s drains, overflows and pipes, resulting in more labor costs and plumbing problems so be aware of this risk. Antique plumbing also does not come with any type of warranty that will cover such issues should they arise. The second option is to buy reproduction plumbing that will offer you the antique look with modern conveniences and a warranty. Please be aware that most modern plumbing will not fit the antique fixtures. Therefore, you can not purchase an antique tub and then run into the nearest hardware store and pick up a faucet or shower head that will fit. Southern Accents has access to a wide variety of brand new reproduction plumbing that is specifically designed to fit the antique bath fixtures. We can special order hardware that will give you the exact look you desire with choices available in a variety of styles and finishes.

Come visit our showroom and outdoor lots to view our vast collection of antique bath fixtures. Let us walk you through the refinishing process and help you select new faucets and plumbing that will add the perfect finishing touch to your antique sink or tub. We are here Tuesday – Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and Saturday from 10:00 to 4:00.

Written by: Lisa Jones

Edited by: Garlan Gudger, Jr.

Arkansas Salvage Project – Picture Gallery

Salvaging historical artifacts from these two 1890 Victorian houses in Arkansas has been an exciting challenge. The architectural pieces that we are rescuing are true works of art. These photos were taken upon our arrival in Arkansas. Please enjoy.

1890 Brunner House - Arkansas - February 2013

Brunner House – February 2013

Plaque from Natural Registry of Historic Places - 1890 Brunner House in Arkansas

Plaque from Natural Registry of Historic Places

Beautiful tile set and fireplace front from 1890 Victorian house

Beautiful tile set and fireplace front

Carved, solid wood mantel from 1890 Victorian House

Carved, solid wood mantel

Tile set and fireplace front from 1890 Victorian House

Tile set and fireplace front

Solid wood mirrored mantel

Solid wood mirrored mantel

Beautiful 1890 Victorian house

Beautiful 1890 Victorian house

1890 Victorian House - Arkansas

Side view

1890 Victorian House - Arkansas

Beautiful trim work and finial

Tripp Gudger on the front porch - 1890 Victorian House - Arkansas

Tripp Gudger on the front porch – 1890 Victorian House – Arkansas

Tile set and fireplace front are some of the most beautiful we've ever seen

Tile set and fireplace front are some of the most beautiful we’ve ever seen

Solid wood, mirrored mantel with side columns

Solid wood, mirrored mantel with side columns

6' pocket door from 1890 Victorian house

6′ pocket door

More pocket doors

More pocket doors

Yet another gorgeous tile set and fireplace front  fron 1890 Victorian house

Yet another gorgeous tile set and fireplace front

Impressive solid wood carved mantel

Impressive solid wood carved mantel

Solid wood staircase from 1890 Victorian house

Solid wood staircase

Beautiful newel posts from 1890 Victorian house

Beautiful newel posts

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