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Smart Solutions: Reclaimed materials offer new update possibilities


High-traffic areas of the home, such as kitchens and bathrooms, have become chic and eco-friendly with sustainable features like recycled copper sinks and vanities made from reclaimed materials. If you’re looking to update these practical spaces in distinctive ways, you can look to some of the latest selections for inspiration.

As founder and CEO of Native Trails, Naomi Neilson took her passion for artisan tradition, sustainability and fair-trade practices to North America through the work of artisans from Mexico. “Combining age-old traditions with contemporary design and sustainable materials, it started with hand-hammered recycled copper sinks and helped to introduce copper as a mainstay material for the kitchen and bath,” she says.

The options have grown to include NativeStone concrete sinks and bathtubs, bath vanities made from reclaimed wood and metals, Italian spun-glass sinks as well as fireclay sinks coated with genuine precious metal glazes, and solid-walnut bath vanities.

Neilson says people seem to appreciate products with a positive story behind them, especially kitchen and bath furniture that has been ethically sourced. As an added bonus, these sustainable materials are also durable.

These benefits can be taken into consideration as residential renovations show no signs of slowing down. “After spending so much time inside our homes, we had a lot of free time to re-envision our frequently used spaces — like a kitchen or a bathroom — and make them comfortable yet functional sanctuaries,” Neilson says. “These spaces are the center of our self-care routines.”

“Freestanding bathtubs are in high demand as our need to unplug and relax is greater than ever. Even sinks, once seen as a solely utilitarian product, have morphed into the star of the show, becoming that personal element and a beautiful differentiator to that space.”

Functional aspects have improved, too, like their new solid walnut and reclaimed wood vanities with soft-close, full-extension drawers and soft-close doors to reduce noise and daily wear-and-tear. Top-notch construction means they will stand the test of time and may even become heirloom pieces, notes Neilson.

The rise in cottagecore style inspired more rustic wood furniture pairings with natural materials, while homeowners have been gravitating toward sustainable materials. “We are receiving a lot of requests for our reclaimed wood vanities and hand-hammered recycled copper sinks,” she says. “Copper is also naturally antimicrobial, which keeps germs and bacteria to a minimum, making it a highly sought-after material, especially within these past few years.”

Those with tight quarters might also like floating vanities that can make a bathroom look and feel more spacious. Their sleek design makes for easy cleaning beneath them and the open storage space below is perfect for a step stool or a scale.

Lastly, like other parts of the home, contrast can add so much to a kitchen or a bathroom. “We typically see designers and homeowners experiment with contrasting colors and materials, such as mixing light hardware with dark cabinets or providing a playful touch with a juxtaposing backsplash,” Neilson says. “It’s fairly common now to see a wood base with a marble top and a copper sink — in the bathroom or as the kitchen island.”

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at jeaninematlow@earthlink.net.