Salvage Works
Image: Kristin Belz

Salvage Works is worth wandering through, whether you know what you’re searching for or not.

Salvage Works is the place to go if you want a good range of reclaimed building materials but don’t want to deal with the potentially overwhelming atmosphere of the Re-Building Center. Much as we love that place (and have the bumper sticker to prove it), it is definitely an everything-including-all-the-kitchen-sinks-you-can-imagine kind of environment.

By contrast, Salvage Works, in the historic Kenton neighborhood of North Portland, is a manageable, navigable place where you can look without necessarily getting lost. And yet there’s plenty of randomness and clutter to inspire a walk through: from rusted old machinery that used to do god knows what, to bathtubs, wooden doors, iron rails, hay-drying racks and baby-doll heads reused as planters.

There are also newly constructed, useful items made (of course) from salvaged materials. Think chicken coop, beehive house (that’s probably not the official name), and dining tables custom-made (or not) from reclaimed wood, “rough”-finished or sanded and smoothed out.

Preston Browning is the one who makes (most of) the furniture. He started as a self-proclaimed teen-aged de-nailer in what was then rural Loudon County (outside DC in Virginia), eventually graduating to dumpster-diving and then restoring antique furniture. He was one of the pioneering deconstructionists at the Re-Building Center in 1999, and a founder of its Refind furniture company.

He and his sister Rachel joined forces about a year and a half ago to open Salvage Works in what is emerging as a mini-DIY-materials mecca in North Portland. They expanded this past spring, when Bamboo Craftsman relocated from Northeast Portland to take over what used to be an auto warehouse.

Now, the brother-sister duo has breathing space for their lumberyard by renting out part of their neighbor’s lot. The new square footage allows them to store whole barn doors and whatever other decommissioned wood their suppliers can deliver. It’s quite impressive to witness the salvaged materials and then see where they’ve gone in their next incarnation.

A recent project was the new venture of the Bye and Bye folks, the Sweet Hereafter on SE Belmont Street. They got their wood at Salvage Works and then DIY-ed the project, which looks fabulous. A project I haven’t seen (but would love to) is a Pearl District loft with sliding barn doors installed.

My little bungalow wouldn’t lend itself to me replicating that project, but the simple, clean-lined screen doors Preston makes (standard or custom sizes, about $250) sure would be a welcome addition to my front door. Hmmmmm.

Salvage Works
2030 N. Willis St.
Portland, Oregon 97217?
Tuesday through Saturday, 9 to 5
503-285-2555