Tune in. Yes, this column is mainly about how we installed a 200kg slab of English alabaster rescued from a convent in Sussex in our 2-bed flat. However, it is also about the rise of listening rooms.
So what is a listening room? For me, it is a space to enjoy the soundscape of a room to help you connect or perhaps disconnect. Usually, people create these rooms to listen to music and ours will be that too, but it will also be a place to practise Nāda yoga and sound meditation. Nāda centres on sound, which I have learned more about since we moved into our new place as my husband just trained in sound baths and gong mediation.
Whether you are making space for external listening or honing your ability to listen inward, a piece of architectural salvage can transform the energy of a room and set your interior design ideas flowing.
Sometimes the priorities of a renovation project won’t go as planned. Our bedroom looks like a salvage yard with pieces collected for the kitchen, which we thought we would tackle first. Instead we are rolling with the rhythm of reclaimed pieces we see, which led us to the next chapter we will call, ‘Vinyl shrine.’
Salvo Code member, Retrouvius reclaimed the alabaster panel from a chapel. As soon as I saw it, I fell heart over heels. I joke because this piece was definitely heart, not head. We aren’t changing the internal structure, so we couldn’t build around it and installing the thing into an existing wall was proving to be a bigger, more expensive job than we had contemplated. Then we realised that the dimensions of the slab worked perfectly within a fitted cupboard that we could rejig to better suit our storage needs with stronger, deeper shelves for records.
‘Make friends with a good tailor’ was always one of my go-to tips to shop for secondhand fashion, and this translated well into sustainable interiors when we found a carpenter called Taylor.
This project required a bit of deconstruction, and we were able to reuse some of the shelves elsewhere in our renovation. But as soon as you start stripping back the layers, you usually find something. We didn’t discover anything too extraordinary, just some wood-chip wallpaper which needed removing to create a fresh surface for the alabaster to be secured, and underwear receipts for M&S and John Lewis circa 1994.
Taylor designed the cupboard using parts of the original cupboard with additional hardwood. We looked to Ashwells for strong reclaimed greenheart timber to frame the panel, and we sourced Victorian newel posts on SalvoWEB from Abergavenny Reclamation for shelf supports.
We mixed exposed wood with parts painted in Travertine (319) by Little Greene. There is a wide selection of eco paint to choose from, so you can pick a brand based on the eco creds that best address your environmental and ethical concerns. According to Community RePaint, a UK-wide paint reuse network, around 16% of the 320 million litres of paint sold in the UK each year go to waste. This statistic might not even reflect the full extent of the problem if Little Greene alone is able to prevent as much as 60,000 litres of left-over, unwanted and returned paints from going to waste with their new Re:mix collection. We chose our Travertine colour palette of shades and bought paint before Little Greene released their upcycled limited batch collection, which is worth a look with twenty of their core colours competitively priced in this first line.
One lesson that I am carrying through from my first personal renovation project is that small homes can take unexpectedly grand architectural salvage. The audio system is a huge part of any listening room, but so is your focal point and the arrangement of furniture and soft furnishings that minimise sound reflection. We upcycled our old rug, which was too small for this room, but perfect to upholster pouffes for relaxed dining seats. We are still playing with the objects on our shelves and figuring out artwork to compliment the Art Deco slab. Displaying vintage vinyl sleeves is a versatile decorating idea that allows you to change the art to match your mood. I am pretty sure I am not the only person to buy a record based purely on the cover artwork…
It’s not essential for your carpenter to like the same music, but if you are working with unique salvage, it helps if they understand and bring ideas to your vision. We got all this plus playlists shared on the project group chat, which Taylor christened ‘Vinyl shrine.’ My husband produces drum and bass music, so our first record had to feature the Amen break.
Photographs © Reclaimed Woman