Rusty metal is a big hit in today's decors, but it's a real coup when anything old and decrepit is turned into a new, stylish accessory.
Take the back of a chair that's lost its seat or has a broken front leg. Attach a planter and paint it, and you have an intriguing piece for your wall, either inside or out.
Turning what many people would consider junk, albeit junk with character, into something that contributes significantly to a home's "look" is the strong suit of junk warehouse, a Lake Barrington business with occasional sales.
Owners Heidi Flanagan and Lori O'Callaghan of Fox River Grove and their friends have found an incredible number of things to do with pieces of old tin ceilings, for example.
Large square sections with a great design - perhaps 2 feet on a side - work as art on the wall. One is $48, another that seems very similar but must somehow be better is $78.
Smaller pieces framed in wood are $58.
Tin cove molding about 6 inches tall is cut into lengths about 3 feet long and a shelf is attached on the top of each piece. Voila, it's an attractive display shelf for $145.
Old suitcases are plentiful - just look in your mom's attic or maybe under her bed. If they are in good enough shape they can double as storage and decoration. The junk ladies painted both an old trunk and an old suitcase with American flags, then treated them to look very old. The trunk is $56, the suitcase $49.
An old ivory-colored suitcase, not very large, is attached to wooden feet about 5 inches tall and sold for $38.
Old wood comes in handy, too. Trim makes great frames, such as a blue one that sold very quickly for $36.
A door cut vertically becomes a $135 corner display cabinet when shelves are inserted.
Stairway spindles with a little metal roof on top, a keyhole for a door and a metal rod sticking out the bottom become "birdhouses" that can be stuck in the ground. These are $12 each.
"We sold 45 the first hour last time," said Dawn Roush, who along with Terry Harris pitches in. Both are also from Fox River Grove.
The type of screen door you see on old farmhouses in movies and television shows adapts well as a frame for a mirror.
An old stroller frame with a wood shelf replacing the bucket where the baby rode is $68 and would work great as a plant stand.
Kathy Strong of Barrington zeroes in on an unusual iron piece hanging on the wall, probably part of a fence or gate. It's got bars and scrolls and an oval in the middle and is not a common design. The price is $185.
"I love this style and collect architectural antiques," she said. "I'm always looking for eclectic things.
"It's crooked, not straight, that's what I love about it. I'm going to put it on the wall in my living room. I have bright colors, it will be contrasting."
Opposite this are little tin cups from windmills that hook together. They are shown hanging on a trellis with flowers in them. Yes, they do look cute, and at $5 each are salable.
Sherry Daugherty of Cary was picking some out for her cottage-style home and did not know if she would use them inside or out.
Larger pieces are more expensive.
A bench crafted from a bed's headboard and footboard with a black-and-white gingham cushion is $450. A very rustic workbench, worn and painted blue and green, is $585.
On the other hand, classical- looking vases and urns are $20, and roosters crafted from tin and wood are $48.
A tall wood pillar that looks like it's made of old paneling and would be a dynamite display stand for a great piece of sculpture is $145.
Fat spindles white washed are $10, and a chunk is $8, and the arrangement of a few pieces together is striking.
Even a broken curved clay roof tile can be tucked behind a flower pot and hung on the wall.
Not everything in the store is old, and much that is has been modified, but O'Callaghan and Flanagan will tell you about the provenances if you ask.
That darling French mesh planter for $28 is new, as is about 20 percent of the merchandise.
The old stuff comes from flea markets, Blue Heaven Farm in Harvard, secret little stashes in barns and a guy who brings in truckloads of wood trim and doors from South Dakota.
The group has been holding sales since November, and the one Thursday, Friday and Saturday will be the last until September. Painting classes are also taught.
On the other hand, customers provide their own imagination when shopping at Island Girl Salvage in downtown Arlington Heights. This other new business specializes in salvaged architectural pieces that have been a little altered.
The trio that owns the shop, Elizabeth Ross, Tabitha Long and James T. Owens, frequently rips items from doomed houses themselves.
Lighting is frequently rewired and occasionally pieces are refinished or painted. The staff is also starting to collect a list of people who work on old houses as well as a list of items that homeowners are seeking. The store is open Wednesdays through Sundays.
A half-circle of rusty wrought iron is $300, an elaborate oval Victorian cast-iron planter is $120.
A French white marble mantel with gold flowers is $2,400, an Arts and Crafts buffet, $995, and a mission-style stand with shelves is $205.
A huge stained-glass window in blue and pink is $900, while a small rough round window is $35.
On the lower end of the price range, a semicircle copper sink from a wet bar is $50 and a floor grate from a heating system costs $44.
Most of the salvage is pre-1950s, and Island Girl does not sell reproductions.
"When you have an old house where the doors are not standard with today's sizes or a sink doesn't fit, you need the older stuff," Ross said.