2003 – Chicago Tribune – “Elegant Salvage”

Elegant Salvage

May 18, 2003|By Philip Berger. Philip Berger writes frequently about architecture and design.

Increasingly, a garden doesn’t depend solely on exotic flora for distinction, but on unique objects. Garden design has focused a lot of attention on furnishings and embellishments.

We’re not talking about birdbaths or fountains or lawn ornaments. Garden enthusiasts have long relied on weatherproof furniture and artworks to enhance the horticultural experience, but now they’ve begun using objects in ways that their creators probably wouldn’t have envisioned.


Nowhere do you get a better sense of these new possibilities than at Architectural Artifacts in Chicago, where Stuart Gran-nen continues amassing his indefinable but fascinating collection of salvaged building parts. While much of his inventory is suitable for indoor use only–the majority of his stock is millwork, lighting and hardware–many items lend themselves to a garden setting. You just have to use your imagination

Anyone can take a piece of statuary and place it in the garden as art, but to rethink a cast-iron cauldron as a planter or a terra-cotta corbel as a bench requires some creativity. Grannen doesn’t dictate what customers should do with the things he sells, because he doesn’t buy things with any particular customer or use in mind. “I appreciate quality. I just buy things that I like.”

Among his most recent acquisitions: a 19th-Century cast-iron and bronze steer that once was the base of a French butcher’s table, and a three-part iron fireback taken from the Potter Palmer mansion.

Salvage One, which pioneered the architectural salvage concept in Chicago, also has a cache of garden-suitable pieces. Manager Gary Grills says he has been surprised at the popularity of stained glass for use in gardens. “People hang it on fences or on the sides of gazebos; some just stick it right in the dirt.”

Beyond the city limits (where presumably there are more gardens) are a few choice sources for one-of-a-kind garden elements.

In 1999, Maureen Byron opened Trellis & Trugs in Winnetka, in part to help her husband, landscape architect Scott Byron. “Scott couldn’t find really great things for his clients,” she says, so she began importing pieces, primarily from England and France. She began with antiques, and her current inventory includes an early 19th-Century English figure of the harvest goddess in moss-covered cast stone and a stamped Coalbrookdale bench of cast iron and wood.

Garden chic comes, of course, at a price. Trellis & Trugs is asking $14,000 for its goddess and $16,000 for the bench.