How To Buy a Used Door

12 Lite French Door with Transom
A lot of customers come into us saying, "I need a door!"  While we like to help our customers as much as possible, we need a bit more information than that.  If you find yourself in need of a door, in order to help both you and us, you will need the following information:
  1. Width, height and thickness of the door needed (in inches).
  2. Are you looking for a door made of all wood, partial glass, full glass?
  3. Do you need this as an interior or exterior door?
  4. If you are looking for an exterior door, will it swing inside or out?
  5. Are you looking for a painted door, or natural wood?
  6. Most of the doors we carry are no longer in the jamb, but occasionally we get a door that comes complete with the jamb.  Are looking for only a door, or do you need a complete set-up?
  7. If you are putting the door into an existing jamb, you will need to find out if the jamb is hinged on the right or the left side.  We determine this method the same as used in architectural drawings which is by standing inside the room in which the door opens into.  In this case, you can always see the hinge pins and knuckles exposed towards you.
 If you come prepared with this information, our staff will be able to help you find the perfect used door!

How to install plaster ceiling medallions

Hand Painted Ceiling Medallions  
In the old days, ceiling medallions were permanently plastered in place by the plasterers. Back then there was usually not an electrical box present. Ideally, you would like access to the box in case there is ever anything wrong . If it is permanently attached you might end up destroying the medallion in order to get to the box since the medallion goes over and partially covers the box . What we usually suggest to avoid this is to use trim head dry wall screws. They are like a finish nail with a reduced size head. You need to locate the wood joists or some solidly attached lath behind the plaster for the screws to securely grab onto. You also need to pre-drill pilot holes in the medallion in the locations of the wood and screw them in while holding the medallion in place. 
Casseli Ceiling Medallion available from Ohmega Salvage
Once this is done you can take a picture or make note of the screw locations on the medallion before they are covered over by spackle or some other filler so you'll be able to find the screws later. Also, protect the head of the screw from being filled in by the spackle. A punched out paper circle from a hole punch works pretty well or some bit of tape. This way, should you ever need to remove the medallion to work on or change the electrical box you can. All you will have to do is relocate the screw heads from your photo or notes and dig out the spackle and paper and back out the screws to remove the medallion. 
Water Street Ceiling Medallion hand painted by one of our talented customers!
Many of our customers have either the electrician or painter or sometimes a carpenter put up the medallion. In any case make sure your electrical box is in good condition and securely attached to the ceiling. Make sure there is enough wire to come down through the medallion and still have enough left to make a connection inside the canopy of the light you are hanging on the face of the medallion. Typically that would mean having about 6 to 8 inches of wire exposed after the medallion is in place. Please note that the canopy of the light, once in place, will also help hold the medallion in place. 

It is also recommended that you put a primer coat of paint on the back side of the medallion to prevent water or moisture from soaking in from the back side. If there ever is a leak, the plaster will act as a sponge unless sealed or primed. By the time you notice the leak it will be too late to save the medallion. Some of our customers do plaster the medallions in place and hope for the best. In that case ask your plasterer. Painting the back of the medallion might interfere with his methods of attaching it. You can also glue the medallion in place, if necessary, with construction adhesive. You would have to seal or paint the back side very thoroughly as construction adhesives will not stick to raw plaster (it is too powdery a surface). This is also a permanent method that would be very tough to remove without damage once done.


A week ago I was changing the outgoing messages on the answering machines for Thanksgiving here at Ohmega. It is something that I have done for as long as I can remember being here. Those of you who know us, know that we are open 7 days a week all year-round. We are only closed for 7 major holidays. The seven holidays become signposts along the way in the journey through the year. It struck me, as it usually does, when I started to leave the Thanksgiving message than this year was almost over. Except this time it was a much stronger feeling than usual. This year, particularly, has been a very challenging year for Ohmega Salvage. I wont go into details as I do not want to diminish the challenges that all of you, out there, have also been going through. It is enough to say that there are people and businesses who started the year along side us that are no longer with us. So, as I was leaving the messages it struck me that I and all of us at Ohmega were quite fortunate. If you have been checking in with the blog you know that I have not posted in quite a while. I apologize for the long delay but this years challenges took charge of my time. I have been getting subtle hints, o.k. not so subtle hints, that I needed to get back into it. I thought tonight would be the best time to pick it back up and simply let all of our customers and friends know that all of us here at Ohmega are very much grateful to still be here serving the community and all of you out there both near and far. We extend that gratitude to all of you who have graced our doors over the years and allowed us to serve you. Please know that now, more than ever, we do not take for granted the value of all of your visits to us here at the stores and those of you who travel to us via cyberspace from places all over the world. Places so far away that it still takes me by surprise by your interest in us. As simply as it can be, Thank You!

Sincerely, Steve Smith

How to Replace Missing Clawfoot Tub Feet

Some of our orphan clawfoot tub feet
Unfortunately, finding a set of feet to fit a vintage claw-foot tub is going to be difficult. There are literally dozens of different designs for mounting feet to tubs. While we normally do have some loose feet, it is rare that we have a matching set of four. And even more rare that those would be the exact match to your footless tub.

The easiest way for us to try to get you a set of feet is if you have at least one of the old feet that could be compared with what we have on hand.
If you don't have any feet it will be very difficult. We can usually tell from the mounts on the bottom of the tub what type of foot you might need, however hauling the tub around is impractical. The best solution is to send us (or another salvage yard) a picture of either an existing foot or the bottom of the tub. Also cut out a cardboard template of the bracket. This will make your search much easier and you will not have to tote your tub around in your quest.
We do sell new foot sets that have straps connecting them together which form a cradle and will support most tubs.
Another alternative is to have a company named Creative Castings make a copy of your existing feet.  They also have a great photo gallery of tub feet!

Good luck!

Ohmega - wedding!

Look how this wedding was styled with wrought iron chairs and table pedestal bases made from oversize 19th century balustrades from a Philadelphia museum.
Photo by Lisa Lefkowitz

The French Architectural Salvage has arrived!

Okay, we haven't been blogging much lately, we've been busy!
We just got in an entire shipping container filled with amazing French architectural salvage.  There's so much stuff that we're still unpacking it daily!

To see how some of our salvage has been used from past shipments, check out the awesome landscape architect and designer, Gary Marsh's website.
Gary Marsh garden design using a French stone sink from Ohmega.

The Liberation of the Doorknob

Recently, I encountered Walter Benjamin's essay on technology and representation. Benjamin is trying to reconcile ideas of mass representation (as well as mass production) with notions about 'aura.' For Benjamin, aura is something that is present at the moment of creation within a piece of art and is intrinsically and inherently tied to it for the rest of its life. The issue that he sees in an age of mass reproduction and representation is that our mechanized and instantaneous media for remediation upon a piece of art subtracts from its value. Thus he sees that modern modes of representation play a dichotomous role within the work of art: our interaction with the newly remediated representation of art stands distinct from the aura of the original work of art.

I start with this as a departure point from which I think architectural salvage is connected. As I was sorting through bins of hardware the other day, I found at the bottom of a rusted bucket of ball-tip hinges a singular idiosyncrasy towards the bottom: an Eastlake doorknob. The patina-coated brass immediately jumped out at me as my eyes traced the organic aesthetics of the patterning, following the flower design and asymmetrical engravings of the doorknob. As I held it, Benjamin's notion of aura slipped into my mind. The doorknob was a piece of art; its cast decoration standing apart from the mere utility of opening a door. But while this was true, at the same time, the doorknob was a testimony to the machine that was the focal point of the Victorian era. Intricate patterning and ordering was the status quo of the day. If there were to exist Benjamin's notion of an authentic aura anywhere within the doorknob, it was not in the doorknob itself (the tangible representation of the art that I was holding in my hand), but rather it existed within some sort of original mold that had long ago fallen victim of rust, decay, neglect, and other incidental qualities that attach themselves to the incessant march of time. But unlike a print of say a painting, in which we see through the layers of remediation and can more accessibly discern the supposed original aura, the recontextualization of the doorknob within in its juxtaposition of, not only being in the bottom of a rusted bucket of hinges, but also of being in a salvage yard itself, changes the value of the aura of the doorknob all together.

Architectural salvage redefines the value of the items that we collect. Removing the objects from their uniform utility allows for a level of removal that creates a redistribution of aura within the object (I posit the word 'uniform' here in the sense that houses traditionally keep a uniform aesthetic continuity, i.e. a house will usually have all single panel doors, or a kitchen will have cabinet pulls/knobs that are all of the same design). Walking through the salvage yard we are able to transverse through layers and layers of thought, history, design, etc... in the blinking of an eye. We can move from the heavy, geometric beats of Art Deco to the fluidity of Art Nouveau just by following the lines in a light fixture. Instead of their existing a linearity in the infusing of aura (that is to say, the aura exists in the original casting of say a doorplate and is then redistributed through each secondary casting and remains in the object throughout its lifetime within the house), the objects here instead exist in a continuum of aura. Each object in its idiosyncratic existence at the salvage yard becomes complete in and of itself.

Architectural salvage yards allow for this new ascriptive existence: a removal from utility and conformity leads into a new ascription of aura within the individual object. Instead of trying to negotiate with the layers of distance we stand from the original, we encounter the objects as discrete and complete entities unto themselves. With this in mind, we can see how architectural salvage allows for an aesthetic liberation: there isn’t the hierarchal obligations that we attach to utility (by this, I again, return to the aesthetic uniform continuity that I suggested before), but rather we see each object as being an open canvas upon which we can inscribe new meanings and new contexts that will allow for a new aura to be created. The four-panel door from a Victorian is reshaped into a table, the doorknob is turned into a coat hook, the multi-light window becomes a mirror, ad infinitum. Architectural salvage is a tangible embodiment of what Ezra Pound said of literature, that we must always, “Make it new.”

Architectural salvage removes us from Benjamin’s notion of a stable and linear aura, a notion that is perhaps antiquated in its nostalgia. These may have stemmed from Benjamin’s own worries as he watched the modes of artistic representation deviate away from the personal and private and into the realm of the mass public. But unlike the negative connotations that Benjamin thinks this shift from private to public sees, architectural salvage acts as a stepping stone that is in fact positive. It removes objects from the private (the original building) into the public (the yard) and returns them back to the private (the new home). In this fluid transition a new aura is infused, an aura that is not tied to the intangible and highly subjective notion that Benjamin suggests is genesis for aura. In effect it creates both a public and a personal aura: the public being the history of the piece of salvage, the private being the personal utilization of the object. This liberation is analogous to Wittgenstein’s ideas about language: if language were private, it wouldn’t mean anything at all. Architectural salvage creates a public dialogue both with the history of the items we salvage and the people who purchase them. This plural and open-ended relationship is a democratization of architecture and should be something that we at Ohmega fully embrace.

By Henry Lacey Ivry

"The Key To Our Success"

I am often asked who are our most frequent customers. I almost always answer "Homeowners". It is simple and to the point. I was thinking about this as I was sitting down to write the latest blog. It occurred to me that I could even distill that answer down to a more basic, yet essential, ingredient. Our most frequent customers are "Moms". Now, those of you who are now crying foul about opportunistic blogging on the eve of Mother's Day, well, o.k. I will give you a point on that one. And those of you suspecting a desperate attempt to cure writer's block, well, a point there as well. Still, it does not diminish or change the truth. Moms are the single largest influence on our business. We live in houses to be sure, but it is all of those "Mom's" touches that makes the house the home we all look for refuge in. Mothers may not always be the ones making the choices of the items that make up the home but it is sure that their influence is always considered in that choice whether it is conscious or not. It is their appreciation of the history of the items we have. That "lived in" quality that the items have gained as they spent their time with other families and now, hopefully, may join their families. So I am going take time to thank all the mothers out there for helping us to find good, new, homes for the items we have. I and Ohmega Salvage very much appreciate it.
Steve Smith

"A Bigger Tent"

Last weeks blog got me to thinking about all of my recent conversations with Ohmega's old friends. They ask me, as always, what's new? I have been telling them about this blog. Now, while most all of our customers are "on-line" to some degree most are not the blogger, or twitter types. And, of course, till just lately I would have been on that list as well. So once I tell them about the blog the next question most frequently asked me is "Why?" I have been trying to put it in terms of staying current, and all the other logical reasons. The trouble is that I never felt that I captured the real value of it. Ohmega Salvage brings the items of our past back into circulation to create a new future. Most of our customer have had some direct connection to these treasures. Either it was in their house growing up or in their grandparents house growing up, etc., etc. As we have gotten older an come more into the future those direct connections get fewer and fewer. Ohmega found itself being challenged to find other ways to connect to those who might not know about the treasures we have and who we are. Starting a number of years back we stated to do the newly formed "Green" events. While we had been doing "Green" for decades, we none-the-less wanted to meet these like minded folks. Ohmega always likes to look our best. When we went to the events we decked out a tent to look like a antique room. That tent was always a big hit and attention getter. We got to meet a lot of new folks face to face - old school. The tent was a lot of work but it was worth it to bring in new folks to the re-use fold. Still we were always limited to being in the same physical space as our guests and we found we couldn't always be there. And so here we are in Cyberspace with our biggest tent yet and this one never closes. A tent that can been seen by all ages and in different countries so that they may see the relevence we may have in their lives today and in the days ahead. "Why?", they asked. Well, damm, we needed a bigger tent!
Steve Smith

"With Old Things Comes Old Friends"

Ohmega has been around for quite some time now. With that longevity comes the opportunity to meet some pretty interesting folks. It is one of the great pleasures of working here. On any given day, the mix of people you are likely to encounter coupled with our Berkeley, CA location might cause the uninitiated person's head to spin. Whether it is a customer, a neighbor, a scavenger, another business owner, or one of our vendors, it runs the gamut of profiles and experiences. You might even run into the occasional famous person. Who?, you might ask? Well you'll have to come down here yourself to find out. This is what America should be: a broad cross section of folks who come here to experience the history and variety that is us. Today it was one of our vendors and old friends. Dave Bertz is the one responsible for our having our popular collection of statues and Buddhas. An old time antiques hound and a full time character. He has been traveling to far away places and bringing things back for us for a long time. His wicked, and often bawdy, sense of humour means that you will be laughing a good part of your time with him. That is, of course, when you are not groaning at some of his jokes. He comes from quite a distance to get to us and lately, with the economy, his visits have become rare. So, today, it was good to see him, a old friend, and get some cool new statues & stuff and laugh some of the recession away. So to all of our old friends out there and the new ones on their way to becoming an old friend, come on down and say "Hi" it is always good to see you!
Steve Smith

Lasting First Impressions

Friday is the first day of my work week. As I first walk through the gates in the morning I get to experience what has come in while I was gone. Since we are open 7 days a week I can't be there for everything as it comes though the gates. Even after working all of these years here it is still a favorite time of mine. It comes closest to what, I imagine, is a lot of our customers reactions to when they come through the gates. Maybe it is the first time ever or maybe it has only been since yesterday there is almost always something new. It is when the items we have taken in start to tell you their stories. The time when an item starts to become a treasure in your mind. How is this possible you might ask? Well I believe that the time, energy, care, and even passion that were expended in making the architectural pieces and other items we take in leaves a lasting impression. It is there for all to see if we only give it a chance to be seen. That's why we are here to give you folks out there a chance to be impressed. So on Friday morning I get to be greeted by the new items and start to hear the stories. You know, I'll tell you, after more that 30 years in the building trades I am still impressed. So, next time your in the neighborhood come on by. There some history here you just might like.
Steve Smith

"A Room With a View"

With apologies to E. M. Forster and the Merchant/Ivory film it is the only appropriate title for this week's blog. The Ohmega crew spent this last week in the rarefied air on the 52ND floor of the Bank of America building in San Francisco. Those of you in the know recognize that location as the former Carnelian Room restaurant and bar. Opened in August, 1970 and named for the Carnelian Granite that adorns the 555 California Street building. This restaurant was old school fancy. You did not show up with out a reservation and a jacket for the "Gentleman". Jeans and sneakers just would not do. Hey, "old school" is our stock and trade so you know we just had to go get this stuff. So we made our reservations with general contractor, who kindly relaxed the dress code, and off we went. This place was big. There was all of this tall carved oak paneling and doors. Then there was a couple of big wine racks and trim and miscellaneous other items and......well....only one working freight elevator and our truck a mere 520+ feet below us. Hey, no problem, right??? How big was that elevator???? So we set about removing and cutting down the panels to fit into the elevator. It is rare that we spend more than a week on a job doing removals but you start to get the idea. It is some pretty nice stuff though. Come on down to Ohmega Salvage and check it out. We promise you that the "Gentlemen" won't need a jacket and, "Ladies," you will be just fine in your jeans.
Steve Smith

Spring Fever.....Hayfever counts, Right???

The sun has been out quite a bit lately. All of us at Ohmega have been adjusting to the new longer hours to match the new longer days. Then there's the sneezing and itching eyes. Is it just me?.....umm never mind. We have quite a bit to do around here when the weather starts to turn for the better. Just like the rest of you we do some spring cleaning around here. Late Spring, Summer, and early Fall are our busiest times here at Ohmega. As I was writing last week, we are always having to make room for new things. Spring increases the pace. With the Spring also comes a certain anticipation as well. We begin to get e-mails, calls and visitors asking about our services and can we help them with their projects coming up. We hope to get a feel on how the building season might shape up. We start to build our hopes as it has been a long Winter and a slow economy. All of us "Ohmegans" are optimists I think. When I say "Ohmegans" I include all of our customers and contractors and scavengers not just our employees. It takes an optimist to see potential in something that others just wish to be rid of, thrown away. To anticipate the pride and satisfaction when that item is brought back to life and incorporated into something new. So here is to hope and to sunshine and longer days. May they find us with a new prosperity. And one more thing.....pass the Kleenex.
Steve Smith

The "Tetris" Factor

The yard is looking different this week. Truthfully, most weeks it looks different. This is not an accident. As we receive new items and send others on to their new homes we have to play what amounts to a large, 3-D version, of "Tetris". Those of you who have played the game of arranging falling blocks on their computer or cell phone know the challenge. Ohmega's version often involves gloves, heavy lifting, pallet jacks, forklifts and, well, you get the idea. This last week seems like a double overtime session of it except that the real "Tetris" doesn't leave you so sore you have a hard time moving. As you know, the game speeds up as it goes along and more blocks come down. Now that Spring has arrived, Ohmega's version also picks up and more items come our way and go on to those of you out there. Whether they know it or not, our customers come in playing their own version of the game as well. In their version, they look for just the right item to arrange to fit into their space and thus make their space more of a home for them - the right fit.
Steve Smith


For those of you who recognize the title of this blog, go to the head of the class. For the rest of you, and this morning that would have included yours truly, I will explain in just a little bit. I had written last week that one of the amazing things about working at Ohmega is the incredible things you run across. That also means you always have an opportunity to learn new things. Earlier this week, we got in a very large Persian rug. Now, rugs aren't really our normal gig. This doesn't mean we avoid them but we don't go looking for them either. Bath tubs,doors, we know about. Rugs, well, not so much. We also know "cool factor" and this rug had it. It was very large and had this faded stripe through it. That faded spot we really weren't sure about. So we made some inquires and discovered "Abrash". Authentic, old, rugs can have faded bands through them where the organic dyes or wools are just a little different. Abrash is the word for this. It is actually a sought after feature in an older rug. It struck me as a totally appropriate term for all of Ohmega Salvage. Here we are, a bit worn, a little faded, and still sought after. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we truly see that quality in the people around us who have been around a while and still see the sought after qualities of those people and their experiences. Talk about "cool factor". Steve Smith

"You never know what you're gonna get"..............

Last week with the Winter Olympics going on, one of the cable movie channels was showing "Forrest Gump" for seven nights in a row. Now, mind you, I like that movie but 7 days straight? Not for me, thanks! It did serve to jamb back into my brain the immortal "Life is like"....... well you know the rest. It was stuck in my brain this week as Ohmega Salvage received about 23 cast iron tree rings and about 70 large planters from the Larkspur Landing Mall in Marin county. And just in time for Spring planting season too.One of the most amazing things about this job is the things and people that cross our path. I have now worked here for over 11 years and after all that time I still see things that come to us that I have never encountered before. It is one of the most fun things about this job. It is one of the reasons that our customers bring in the visiting relatives when they come to town. You never know what you're gonna get, or what you will see, or the people you'll meet when you're here. Where else are you going to see a chandelier with monkeys dressed in Victorian servants clothes? Come on by and see for yourselves, we are always happy to see new people and catch up with old friends.
Steve Smith

Welcome to Ohmega Salvage's Blog

It is not without some sense of irony that I am intoducing our blog into cyberspace. Ohmega Salvage has now entered into its 36th year doing what we have always done - saving the past. We have always specialized in saving some of the great items from our oldest homes and buildings here in the Bay Area. The doors, windows, bath tubs and sinks and everything else we value were all made long before cyberspace was someblody's crazy dream. So, welcome to Ohmega Salvage's newest way to say "Hi" and let you know about us and some of the amazing stories we come accross in our efforts to save some pretty great things. "What things?", you might ask. Well, we try to save the work and products of some of best craftspeople to have come before us. The products of our parents and grandparents and their parents before them. To save for now, and in the future, the products made with all of their care and artistry with some of the finest resources they could bring before them. the words of a lot of our customers and visitors: "Where did you get all of this cool stuff". Welcome to Ohmega Salvage, my name is Steve Smith and I will be one of your hosts. Thanks for coming!