Thursday, July 19, 2018

Industrial Design Must-Haves

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Industrial design has been on the rise lately and with so many options now available to achieve that look it can be hard to decipher what might be best when considering an industrial design interior. For the budget conscious homeowner this can also mean making informed purchases for achieving the the look without breaking the budget.

To keep costs down, I have compiled three industrial design must-haves under $1,000 that will give you that lofty, industrial feel without compromising your wallet.
Photo by Hannah Manning for
Materials Unlimited

Drafting Table
Purchase Price: $645.00

Why Buy?: An antique drafting table gives you the entire industrial look with heavy wood and metal accents, this table achieves the objective. This table can also be used in a variety of ways. From actually drafting and drawing, dining, to office work, it's smaller size and tilting abilities make it ideal for most tasks.

Value: Antique hardwood furniture found at a reasonable price is worth the investment as it will last a lifetime if treated right.

Photo by Hannah Manning for
Materials Unlimted

Purchase Price: $985.00 for set of four

Why Buy?: Vintage or even modern stools are an easy way to inject an industrial feel. With metal and wood components they given visions of what an old factory may have looked like. Their sturdy design makes them great for heavy abuse at your counter.

Value: It's hard to find a set of quality stools even at the big box store for under $200 each. For that price you own a vintage or antique original with a real "aged" look and patina without having to create a "distressed" finish.

Light Fixture
Photo by Hannah Manning
for Materials Unlimited

Purchase Price: $185.00

Why Buy?: When most people think of industrial they think of the large old light fixtures that hung in giant warehouses or the metal lights that were used on the exterior of factories. If your goal is achieve the industrial look, you simply need a light fixture! It'll brighten up your space and create a focal point.

Value: Finding a vintage or antique industrial light fixture is a great option, but for under $200 you could also make an industrial looking light fixture with found objects. If you're not handy, don't worry, your local lighting specialist might be able to piece some things together for you - or you can buy online at for more.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Get the Look of the Michigan Central Station and Beaux Arts Style

By Gretchen Sawatzki

When Detroit's Michigan Central Station opened in 1913 America's fascination with old world classical architecture was at its peak. From 1890-1920 American architects and designers looked to European classical design as inspiration for monumental and lavish public structures. Train stations, municipal buildings, libraries, and more were made to look imposing and grandiose to strike a sense of awe and wonder in those who entered them.

Detroit's Michigan Central Station By Brian W. Schaller [FAL], from Wikimedia Commons

The Beaux Arts style, as it has been called, was popularized during the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago utilizing enormous scale, classical columns, arches, chandeliers, and marble accents. The style tapered off before the Great Depression. With buildings like Detroit's Michigan Central Station, a once lavish structure worthy of royalty, now being renovated, the Beaux Arts style is making a bit of a comeback. Here's how to get the look.

Pair of Ionic columns. Photo by
Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited
1). Classical columns add a Beaux Arts touch to a kitchen, bar or even an entryway. Their design is as old as the Greeks and still offers a simplistic beauty. Classical columns come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but namely the Classical Architectural Orders including Doric, Corinthian, and Ionic.

2). Grandiose entry doors make a statement when entering any space. Like the designers of the Beaux Arts buildings of the late 1800s and early 1900s, an entrance is your chance at a great first impression. Don't waste a good opportunity to make others welcome. Try and antique entry set to add some curb appeal.

3). Lighting is essential to create the perfect Beaux Arts look. The larger, the brighter, the gaudier, the better. You have plenty of liberties when it comes to Beaus Arts lighting. A simple pair of wall sconces with classical floral backplates can make a simple statement, while a large chandelier dripping with crystals can be the showstopper.
Pair of Beaux Arts wall sconces. Photo by Hannah Manning
for Materials Unlimited

4). Details. The devil is in the details when it comes to Beaux Arts design. The more details the better. Mix materials like ceramic tile and stone to create a rich look. Use golds and punches of bold colors to add to the regal feel.

5). Size matters. If you really want to employ the Beaux Arts style, you need to think big, really big. Big windows, big arches, vast spaces, and high ceilings give the Beaux Arts style its grandiose feeling.

It's not hard to get the Beaux Arts look for your space, you just have to think big and beautiful. Like the Michigan Central Station and the buildings of the 1893 Columbian Exposition, the style is meant to inspire awe and beauty. With a few pops of lavish details you can achieve the look.

  Buffalo Architecture and History
  Chicago Architecture Foundation
  Historic Detroit

Monday, July 2, 2018

A Brief History of Detroit's Michigan Central Station

By Gretchen Sawatzki

When Detroit's 18-story Michigan Central Station opened in 1913 it was the pride and joy of Detroit and Southeast Michigan. Its architects, Reed & Stem of St. Paul, Minnesota and Warren & Wetmore of New York were granted the contracts on a joint venture to construct an awe-inspiring civic building drawn from classical architecture and the romance of the (then) modern railroad. Its grandiose design consisting of 50 foot ceilings, 68 foot Corinthian columns and mammoth arches were symbolic of Detroit's economic and industrial power to those visiting from far and wide.

A445, Michigan Central Station, Detroit, Michigan, United States, 2016
By Brian W. Schaller [FAL], from Wikimedia Commons

At the time of its opening nearly 200 trains left the station each day. By the 1940s nearly 3,000 office workers called the Michigan Central Station their workplace. The train station continued to flourish through the 1950s when subsidized highway projects took precedent and automobiles became the preferred mode of transit. The train station continued to operate through the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s when it was finally decided in the mid-1980s to end train service at the station all together. In January 1988 the last passenger train rolled out the station for the last time.

Michigan Central Train Station Interior - 26 June 2009
By Rick Harris from Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Michigan Central Station [3]) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Since then, the train station has sat as a sign of Detroit's decay waiting for the moment when it could be resurrected. In June 2018, it was announced that the Ford Motor Company purchased the building with plans to renovate - turning the long-vacant landmark into nearly 5,000 offices with its main lobby open to the public. 

It's a rare occasion that such a magnificent building can come back from near collapse. Detroiters and Michiganders alike are thrilled that this once decaying structure will have a new life in a recovering city.

Materials Unlimited is your source for architectural salvage and period restored lighting serving Detroit and Southeast Michigan for over 70 years. To find architectural elements for your own restoration project visit our website,


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Before and After: Antique Glass Table

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Tables with inlay and veneer can be difficult to restore properly. Having been stored in a garage for several years, this antique table from the 1920s sustained weathering, water and structural damage. Made of walnut and oak, this antique table needed sanding, refinishing, and stabilization. Here's the before and after of this restoration project.

Antique glass table before restoration. Photo by Charles Wiesner.

The beautiful inlay and veneer table top was heavily scratched, faded, and lacking luster. The broken pedestal was glued and clamped into place to secure it. After a good cleaning and several rounds of sanding, the table needed a solid refinishing. A custom color was mixed and used for the refinish.

Antique glass table after restoration. Photo by Charles Wiesner.

After the refinishing, a new glass table top was cut and placed on top for a full restoration.

Do you have an antique table in need of professional restoration? Give us a call or visit our website for more information.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

January Projects to Help You Get Through the Winter

By Gretchen Sawatzki 

If you're buried in a few feet of snow like most of the country and starting to go stir crazy inside your home, now might be a good time to work on some of those indoor projects you've been neglecting.

January is a great time to get your indoor projects going. Why? Well not only are you most likely spending more time indoors, but it's also the time of year that last year's products are on clearance. You can find a lot of products on sale including tiling, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, door and more for a fraction of the price last year.

Antique interior pine doors perfect for an indoor restoration project.
Photograph by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

If you're working on a restoration project, and you're in need of new doors or hardware, now is the time to get those installed. Custom wood doors and antique solid wood doors are always a great option when jazzing up your interiors. Replacement hardware can refresh a space for maximum impact with little money spent. Plumbing fixtures can also be easily changed to give a kitchen or bathroom a new look for the new year.

Cabinet knobs available at Rejuvenation. Image credit.

So, if you're looking for something to do while the weather has you stuck indoors try checking off those small repairs and restoration projects that can cost less now and give you something active to do while you hibernate from the cold.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Before and After: Carved Griffins

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Our restoration shop has been busy this holiday season, so here's a quick look into a simple cleaning project we've been working on.

These beautiful hand-carved griffins came into the shopping needing a quick clean-up. For quick cleaning you can use a number of great products including Kotton Klenser.

Kotton Klenser is easy to use. Simply apply, let the product work its magic for a few minutes, and let it lift dirt and grime while conditioning the wood. A quick wipe down and the wood is clean and ready for a fresh finish. Try an oil or Minwax finish the look and color you desire.

The griffin on the left has been cleaned with Kotton Klenser and oil-rubbed, while the griffin on the right has yet to be cleaned. You can really see the difference!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Photo Friday: Antique Wine Press

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Wine, the nectar of the gods. It's been around for centuries and is a huge part of every day culture. If you're a wine lover than you may find this antique wine press pretty imPRESSive!

Antique grape crusher/wine press.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

Made of antique oak and cast iron, this combination grape crusher/wine press from the early 20th century once crushed grapes for the perfect glass of wine. Non-functioning today, the wine press would have been used to produce small batches of wine, and makes a great conversation piece!

Antique grape crusher/wine press.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited