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Jeremy Kirk, owner of Kirk and Sons Construction, Elise Zelechowski, Executive Director of Rebuilding Exchange, and Annie Coleman, Managing Broker of LivingRoom Realty recently sat down to discuss Jeremy's recent restoration of a turn-of-the-century home in Hyde Park. Using salvaged and reclaimed materials, from the Rebuilding Exchange and other area reuse stores, while also upgrading the house with modern amenities, he combined a vintage and modern aesthetic to achieve a beautiful, unique, and "green" remodel. An excerpt from the interview is below.

Elise: Jeremy, you recently renovated a single family home in Hyde Park using mostly reclaimed and salvaged materials.  Were you motivated by potential cost savings or were you looking for a certain look for your remodel?

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Jeremy: You can’t totally go into this just thinking you're going to save money.  The problem is that you might save money on the purchase of the reclaimed materials initially, but it will likely cost you more in labor to install those materials. This project is different then a lot of the creative reuse projects we’ve undertaken or seen. I don’t think there is a thing in the renovation that we put in just because it’s an old thing.  Reuse is not necessarily always about a reuse aesthetic movement.

Elise: Interesting. To that end, I think it’s really critical to bring a contractor into the project early when using reclaimed materials.  An integrated approach to the renovation process is key!  You have to openly communicate your vision early on, and then develop a relationship of trust, because your contractor will likely need to make a number of creative decisions on issues as they come up real time.  No one wants to micromanage! Or have a bunch of change orders.... Using reclaimed materials mandates that kind of openness.

Jeremy:  It’s true.  As a contractor, there are questions 10 times a day where you need to let the materials guide you towards a solution, letting the materials sometimes decide outcome.  Sometimes you don’t even have the materials yet, but you have a vision and a range of options.

Annie: What do you think are the benefits of using reclaimed materials?

Jeremy: Quality is number one.  We are very fortunate to be in Chicago because there is so much quality material around here, local manufacturing that has been around forever.  Take Chicago Faucets, for example. You can find a 100-year-old faucet that is about the same as the ones they sell now. It looks the same, it works the same, nothing is different.  You can still get the replacement parts. They cost about $380 new. You can get the same quality in a reclaimed one...and it’s never ceased to function.  There is almost something almost metaphysical about it. A quote I like is "historic renovation should maintain the integrity of the building's passage through time".  So you’re not trying to fix the building to when it was done.  If the building was built in 1890, it doesn't matter if the thing we are putting in there is from 1890 or 1910 or 1920, it is all part of what’s accumulated in the history of the structure.

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Annie: So, do you feel that you ‘restored’ the property on 52nd?

Jeremy: I guess it’s hard not to call it restoration, but what you're really trying to do is bring out the qualities that were always there hidden through linoleum, wallpaper, and paneling.

Elise: There's quite a bit of research demonstrating that neighborhoods with maintained or restored older buildings tend to have better economic sustainability potential long-term.  Which makes sense when you consider how the built environment, and component building materials, act as cultural and historical assets, and make up a part of the fabric of our communities.

Annie: And in the case of a restoration or remodeling project, there’s something very special about a house where every part has been deliberated upon and the quality of each piece maximized.

You can find more photos of this project in our previous post.