Create a beautiful home using reclaimed/salvaged materials

Create a beautiful home using reclaimed/salvaged materials

Toronto artist Vivian Reiss has a love of antiques, vintage and architectural salvage. Her colourful city home is a triumph of eclecticism over conformity

By Coco Piras
A master bathroom featuring antique French mirrors

She has the luxury of space, of course, but Vivian Reiss shows how you can achieve a coherent interior decoration using furniture and materials from different periods and styles. Pictured above: the master bathroom uses antique French mirrors as well as reclaimed tiles and marble.

Vivian Reiss is an artist and interior designer who doesn't like conventionality when it comes to homes. She believes in mixing and matching, not being afraid of strong colours and above all in using reclaimed and salvaged materials to keep your carbon footprint down.

And she says when you're doing up a house or flat, don't feel you have to do it all in one go. Take things slowly - think years not months - and with careful planning it'll all come together just fine.

Her family home is a very large Victorian house in the Annex district of Toronto. Originally 12 flats, Reiss has completed its transformation and restoration over many years with the help of an architect and a small team of craftspeople.

The sitting room has furniture bought on Vivian's travels and a floor made from 3000 pieces of reclaimed wood
Don't shy away from dark colours for walls or ceilings
The hand-carved kitchen is made from reclaimed timber. It took a year to make
The grand entrance hall and staircase - the house is full of reclaimed timber
Vivian bought antique fireplaces for the house and decorative objets
Vivian's daughter's bedroom has a stencilled floor and a lime green ceiling
The marquetry floors were painstakingly made from pieces of reclaimed wood
The dining room windows were replaced with windows salvaged from local churches
A downstairs washroom with a salvaged ceramic washstand
A sitting room adjoins the master bedroom

Reiss's advice to anyone wanting to do up their home is to have what you like in it, not what magazines and tv makeover programmes tell you is 'in' or what constitutes good taste.

If you're a collector - as she is -  gather up your pieces and make sure you have shelving / units / surfaces to display them on. As you can see from her home, Reiss loves antiques, whether French antique mirrors or bronze objets that look splendid on a fireplace, and she is always on the look out for interesting, quirky, unusual pieces of furniture and decorative accessories.

And she's certainly not one for tasteful taupes and minimalism. No, she goes for colour and isn't scared of using dark colours on walls and ceilings.

If you want to do things sustainably, be sure to visit antiques fairs, architectural salvage yards and if you don't have time to do your own upcycling, then buy from people who upcycle for a living (such as The Treasure Trove in Sussex). When it comes to lighting, it's very easy these days to source reclaimed fixtures - lighting that may have hung in churches, schools or factories. 

Of course key to a successful interior design project it to have the best craftspeople you can find - so seek out good and reliable plasterers, carpenters, tilers, and painters and decorators. 

Vivian Reiss's garden isn't huge but it's interesting and pretty. And she grows lots of fruit and veg.
The solid exterior belies the joyful colour and individuality within

Homes do need artwork  - bare walls are, let's face it, boring - and it's obviously a huge advantage that Reiss is a very talented artist who can paint the large and colourful canvases that hang so splendidly throughout the house and give it such warmth and character.

But if you're not a budding painter, again there are ways to source art that doesn't cost the earth: antiques markets of course, and modern art fairs, but also consider photographs. if you have them framed and group them together in clusters, they can look very striking.