Tag Archives: Arkansas Salvage

To Paint or Not To Paint?

A frequent topic of conversation among our customers is the question of whether it is ever ok to paint a piece of antique wood furniture or architectural piece. There are several arguments that can be made in favor of painting, as well as taking a hands off approach, to leave a piece in its original stained condition.

If your piece is a collector item and/or you are concerned about retaining the value, then you may want to take a hands off approach where painting is concerned. Most collectors want the finish of an item to be as close to the original as possible. If the original finish happens to be painted, the time worn patina not only adds character to the piece, but could also add value if it is original. Resist the temptation to add a fresh coat of paint or lacquer before you consult with an expert so that your hard work does not take away from its value.

Another argument for retaining the original finish on a piece would be if it is a piece of historical significance. Any item that has a documented history should be kept in its original condition if at all possible. Even if the piece is damaged, restoring the damage usually will not increase the value.

Birdseye Maple Mantel -  circa 1890 from the Bruner house in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Birdseye Maple Mantel – circa 1890 from the Bruner house in Little Rock, Arkansas.

We would also not recommend painting rare and exotic woods such as birdseye maple, curly pine and burl walnut, to name a few. The grain patterns of these woods are exquisite and rare. Covering them with paint, in our opinion, is a crime. We recently rescued a mantel that was covered with several layers of white paint. We decided to strip the paint from this mantel and were so glad that we did. What we discovered is that the wood beneath all that paint was birdseye maple. This discovery drastically increased the value of this historical piece. We were also thrilled to be able to uncover and expose the natural beauty of this rare wood.

An argument in favor of paint is if your antique piece is one that you will keep and use in your home and retaining the value is not a concern. The finish may become more of an issue of personal style and coordinating your treasure with your homes décor. If the original finish does not fit the color or style of your room, painting can be a viable option. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and, while the worn finish and imperfections of an antique piece might be prized by some, others might see it as an eyesore. While some collectors and purist would argue that it is never ok to paint an antique, the bottom line is that if you are the owner and the one living with the piece, you need to be happy with it. A nice coat of paint can give a needed face lift to a weathered door or add interest to a time worn dining room table.

Written By: Lisa Jones


If you are considering painting your antique piece, we recommend looking at the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint®. This paint is easy to work with and requires little to no surface preparation. It can be used on just about any surface so its use is not limited to wood items. Various techniques can be used with the Chalk Paint® that will give your piece an old or antique look… or bring out the natural wood grain. This paint is available from our friend Teresa at Vintage West. If you are within driving distance of Cullman, Alabama, we highly recommend checking out Teresa’s Chalk Paint® classes!

Another product that we highly recommend for stained or natural wood pieces is Briwax. Briwax is a unique blend of beeswax and carnauba wax that naturally cleans, stains, and polishes. It is available in clear and nine wood tones from Southern Accents. We do not recommend using oils. Oil can soak into the open grain of wood and over a period of time can turn it black. Natural wax however will help restore the finish and is preferred by collectors and most craftsmen.

Saving The Spire

Southern Accents Architectural AntiquesOne of the most striking architectural features on many Victorian style homes is the towering spire. These tall, metal structures reaching towards the sky are hard to ignore. Typically affixed to a turret, at first glance one would think they are a type of lightening rod, but their purpose is far from that of attracting bolts of electricity. Actually, their presence is purely decorative and symbolic. Mostly seen on churches, they portray a hopeful, celestial gesture towards heaven. Affixed to the turret on a home, they are viewed as a symbol of wealth and prestige. Spires are, by some accounts, the defining image of Victorian homes. Their ostentatious display screams “look at me” to many a passer by. We took notice, and with an err of determination, set forth on a mission to save one spire!

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques One of the houses that we recently salvaged in Little Rock, Arkansas was a majestic 1890 Queen Anne style Victorian that sat downtown just off the river. As we began the deconstruction process, the galvanized tin spire was impossible to ignore. It was an architectural element of the house that we refused to leave behind for the bulldozers. We discovered that the turret had been struck by lightning in 1976. During the repair of the turret, this spire was placed in the attic, where it remained for the next 20 years. In 1996 Little Rock saw it returned to it’s rightful place by home owner, Mr. Hammond. The spire, which is in immaculate condition, remained there until it was successfully removed during our recent salvage operation.

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques Removing the spire was an interesting feat, to say the least. It involved a lift and a harrowing episode with a chain saw 50 feet high in the air. We were fortunate to have videographer Greg Spradlin from Camp Friday Films in Little Rock along for the ride. Greg put together an awesome video, documenting the removal of this incredible artifact along with it’s journey from Arkansas to Alabama. You can watch the VIDEO by Clicking Here.

Southern Accents Architectural AntiquesUpon it’s arrival at Southern Accents, the top of the turret, which was cut and removed with the spire in tact, was stripped of all the old shingles. The weathered wood provides the perfect backdrop for this treasure. Although this is one of those rare finds that we would love to enjoy for a while, the spire is currently available for sale and can be viewed online by Clicking Here. If you are within driving distance, the spire is currently on display in our showroom. We’re sure it will be a traffic stopper just as it was as it sat atop the majestic Victorian house on Cantrell Road.

Written by: Lisa Jones

Edited by: Garlan Gudger, Jr.

A Lesson In History – Figural Tiles

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques

Last week we talked about our jaw dropping reaction when we first saw pictures of the two historic houses in Little Rock and were contacted about our interest in salvaging them. We knew we had to come to the rescue of the antique artifacts that lay within, the most impressive being the seven unbelievable mantels and the figural tile sets they encased. In our 44 years of business we have rarely seen a tile collection housed under one roof the likes of these. Each of the seven fireplaces framed beautiful glazed tile, many showcasing incredible figural tiles from the American Encaustic Tiling Company dating back to the 1890’s.

Southern Accents Architectural AntiquesMost of the figural tiles were sold on location to local residents, many of whom have a keen interest in preserving a piece of their city’s history. We do however want to share a few pictures, as well as a bit of history surrounding these tiles, in an effort to create an awareness of the antique artifacts that are needlessly lost when property owners demolish old structures without allowing salvage companies, like Southern Accents, the opportunity to rescue objects of historical significance.

These magnificent tiles came from the American Encaustic Tiling Co. (A.E.T.) in Zanesville, Ohio. At one time this company was reported to be the largest tile manufactory in the world. Founded in 1875, the company produced a wide variety of wall and floor tiles as well as very decorative art tiles. By 1890 there was a need to expand the rapidly growing company. A new plant was built in Zanesville, Ohio and dedicated on April 19, 1892. The celebration was attended by 20,000 people, arriving by foot, train, boat and horse-drawn carriage. The company remained a boom to the Zanesville community for the next 40 years, closing in 1935, being a victim of the Great Depression.

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques

During this time, A.E.T. had a major presence in New York City, not just as a producer of floor and wall tiles, but also as a creator of art tiles and tiles used in architecture. Leon V. Solon became the artistic director of the company and created impressive showrooms at the 41st street location in Manhattan around 1912. In the 1920’s, Solon re-designed the A.E.T. showrooms, making them a “virtual tile museum”. Preservationists were unsuccessful in their attempts to landmark the building in 1993. Most, if not all, of the tiled interior has been demolished by tenants and landlords over the previous years.

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques

This image is the American Encaustic Tiling Co. stamp located on the back of several of the figural tiles. Stamps and what we call “maker’s marks” are paramount in helping us track the history of antique artifacts.

We view these colorful, glazed pieces of earthenware as incredible works of art. We feel privileged to be given the opportunity to save these works for future generations to appreciate and enjoy. In our continuing mission to promote the preservation of our architectural heritage through rescuing, restoring, and protecting artifacts of historical significance, we are thrilled to be able to share our mission with you each week through pictures and stories via our newsletter.

The first image above shows one of the seven tile sets and surrounding mantel before it was removed from the historical 1890 Bruner house in Little Rock, Arkansas. This set is available for purchase. Click Here for details.

Written by: Lisa Jones

Edited by: Garlan Gudger, Jr.

The Life Of A Mantel – Behind The Paint

When we were first contacted regarding our interest in salvaging the two 1890 houses in Little Rock, Arkansas that were scheduled for demolition, we marveled at the pictures sent to us. The exterior pictures would have been enough to catch our eye. The interior pictures are what produced a jaw dropping reaction among our team. The pictures revealed some of the most beautiful architectural pieces we have seen in our 54 years of business. The pictures that garnered the strongest reaction from us were the mantels… all seven of them! Beautiful, majestic, carved mantels, each one framing elegant tile sets. Several of the mantels were purchased on location, so we only returned to Cullman with four, one of which was a painted mantel. Being painted, the wood grain was covered. We weren’t expecting to find a surprise ‘behind the paint’. We immediately sent the mantel to our wood shop to have the paint stripped off and to our surprise and great delight we discovered that underneath all the old paint was an exquisite mantel made of birdseye maple. This mantel quickly moved to the top of our favorite item list!

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques

Birdseye mantel in the strip tank.

We only see an artifact made from birdseye maple about once a year. It is a rare wood not commonly seen in antique items except in high quality pieces. Back when all furniture was made by hand, birdseye maple was only used by the most skilled artisans. It was a rather difficult wood to work with. The fine threads of the wood would easily catch and tear the grain. Because of this, items made from birdseye were extremely labor intensive. Many sawmills when faced with a run of birdseye would cut and use it as firewood! Today modern tools are available that make working with this stunning wood much easier.

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques

The mantel top in the strip tank. The natural beauty of the wood showing as the old paint dissolves.

No one really knows for sure how or why this pattern occurs in the wood grain. It is found in several species of wood but is most commonly seen in hard maple. The very distinctive pattern resembles tiny, swirling eyes that disrupt the smooth lines of the grain, somewhat reminiscent of a burl but not quite the same. Could the cause of this phenomenon be some tiny pecking birds deforming the wood grain or possibly an infectious fungus or insect? Perhaps it is the result of a genetic mutation. The exact cause is irrelevant. One doesn’t need to understand the reason to appreciate the sheer beauty of this magnificent wood!

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques

Birdseye mantel, stripped of the old paint, waiting for the final cleaning

The stripping process on this mantel is complete. It is now awaiting it’s final cleaning. The original beveled glass mirrors will be reinstalled and the mantel will take it’s place in our showroom. This birdseye mantel is currently for sale and can be viewed online by Clicking Here. We can’t wait to discover who the lucky new owner will be, but when the time comes this is one of those rare pieces that we will be sad to see leave our showroom.

Birdseye mantel before it was removed from the 1890 Bruner  house in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Birdseye mantel before it was removed from the 1890 Bruner house in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Written by: Lisa Jones

Edited by: Garlan Gudger, Jr.


Cantrell House - Little Rock, ArkansasIf you have been following our blog, Facebook posts or newsletter, you already know that this past week found us very busy with a sizeable salvage project in Arkansas. We were questioned numerous times on site in Little Rock as to why we were taking apart these beautiful historical homes. Our primary mission has always been: “To promote the preservation of our architectural heritage through rescuing, restoring, and protecting artifacts of historical significance.” We have always prided ourselves in never taking historical fabric from a structure that has not already been scheduled for demolition. There is nothing more enjoyable to us than seeing historical structures renovated and brought back to life. But we all have watched in horror as buildings have been crumbled and reduced to rubble by a wrecking ball, taking with it recyclable material and, at times, beautiful, irreplaceable architectural pieces that could have been rescued. When a historic building or structure has been scheduled for demolition, for whatever reason, Southern Accents is the company that you want to see on the scene ahead of the bulldozers.

The purpose behind our recent salvage job in Little Rock Arkansas, and every structure that we have gone into over the past 54 years, is so that we can rescue and restore the artistry of the architectural pieces we are able to obtain. By restoring these fragments, the history and craftsmanship are protected for many more years to come. What we do is nothing short of an architectural rescue mission… We save old stuff!

Brunner House - Little Rock, ArkansasMuch of the architectural salvage pieces that we call “building art” is hand crafted and/or hand carved. We value these pieces as treasured works of art. Most items would be hard to replicate or even impossible to reproduce because of cost, time and lack of craftsmanship. We parallel the intent of purposely destroying these architectural pieces as being equivalent to the destruction of a prized historical painting. By helping protect these building arts, we believe that Southern Accents is at the forefront of historical preservation by salvaging and recycling as much as possible before the wrecking ball arrives. If given enough time, we try to save everything we can right down to the wall studs, rafters, exterior siding, and brick as well as any architectural component that has any character or integrity in the interior.

Everyone should realize that the SUM of the individual pieces, taken out of a structure during a salvage job, will never equal the TOTAL of the architectural splendor when it was placed together in its entirety. Knowing that fact, it is our goal to salvage the historical, artistic, hand-crafted relics of architecture from each structure thus allowing the story of each home or building we tear down to live on for generations. We love it when people walk through our showroom and we are able to give them the history of an architectural relic. When we tell the story of a particular item, we know, that in a small way, we had a hand in preserving and documenting the history and story of where that item came from for future generations. We take pride in the accomplishments we have been able to make these past 54 years of business and look forward to continuing our mission of rescuing, restoring, and protecting for years to come.

Salvage Adventure in Arkansas

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques Being passionate about historical preservation, it disheartens our soul to see a beautiful old home or property reduced to rubble. Whether it is the result of urban sprawl, neglect or natural disaster is irrelevant… in our book it is still a sad passing. However, we do find fulfillment in being able to salvage pieces of historical significance before the wrecking ball turns it in to rubble. Although it is never our purpose to demolish any property, we consider it an honor every time we are afforded an opportunity to salvage an old structure that has been scheduled for demolition.

This week we traveled to Arkansas for a salvage project involving two 1890 Victorian houses. These beautiful old houses have been sitting on private property that was recently sold. Both houses are scheduled to be taken down to make room for a private school. When contacted about our interest in the structures, we were thrilled to come to the rescue of the beautiful architectural pieces contained within. This is one of our largest salvage projects to date and several trips will be required to complete this project.

Phase I saw us returning with beautiful solid wood paneled doors, carved fireplace mantels, Eastlake Victorian cast brass door hardware, antique lighting, fencing, gorgeous fireplace tile sets, claw foot tubs and much more. Some of the large architectural pieces have already pre sold to interested buyers on site. We will be posting all available pieces to our website and Facebook account as soon as we are able to unload, process and picture each item.

Brunner House - February 2013

Southern Accents is returning to these historical structures for Phase II in March to continue to salvage and recycle as much material as we can possibly rescue. The architectural pieces that will be lovingly restored, only serve as a reminder for the new owners of what once was, and will be part of a new story for the next generation. They will provide future memories as they might someday be seen in family photos yet to be taken. Other salvaged artifacts could be re-purposed into other useful items and creative projects. Playing a role in the challenge of transitioning these historical artifacts is a measurable task and is one of the reasons we are so passionate in doing what we do!

Please keep a close watch on our New Arrivals page as items and artifacts from this project will be posted here. If you are looking for particular items and are interested in pre sales for the many pieces that we will be bringing back, please contact our showroom at 877 737-0554. We also invite you to browse our other blog posts about this project. You can read a bit of history on the houses and view pictures from the interior of both. Make sure you follow our blog as we will have more interesting stories to share about this project.

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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