Category Travel

Hungary’s Architectural Salvage

Salvage Finds from Hungary


Mr. Vite and the Chauffeured Audi

Seems like we predictably arrive at our global destinations, exhausted and incoherent. This time was no different. Of course, on route, we had 4 kids under 10, to drop off at Grandmas in New Jersey. Two of ours and their cousins. Those that have experience 4 boys all under 10, in close quarters, eating candy non-stop, understand.

Touchdown– Ferenc List International Airport. Greeting us outside the baggage area was a figure clothed in black, holding a sign above his head with, “Mr. Vite”. Clever guy that I am, I knew he was there for us. With my best friendly face and enunciating carefully in English, “White? Joshua White, I confirmed? He nodded in the affirmative. Wasting no time, I hurried Jessica and myself into the car. Some place between fatigue and excitement I realized we were being chauffeured in a super luxury class Audi. I had no ideas why we qualified for this hoity-toity perk? But, I decided to enjoy the ride. Jessica slept.

Passing fields of sunflowers everywhere, thirty minutes later, the Audi pulled up to a palatial mega structure. To my surprise the Le Meridien Hotel, which we were expecting to stay at, was now the Ritz Carlton. The reputation of Le Meridien Hotels had peaked my personal and professional curiosity, as Le Meridian is known for their understated, historic elegance. Disappointed, yes, but I’d get over it. After all, ‘whatsasowrong’ with the 4.5 stars Ritz Carlton, and smack dab in UNESCO’s World Heritage district.


Picasso, A Matter of Taste

While our Hungarian contact was ready to jump into work, we decided to relax for 48 hours, get rid of the jet lag and enjoy some tourist activities. Then, full tilt into work mode.

After a deep sleep, turning over and going back for more, we prepared for town. First stop, the Picasso Exhibition. I’m more a fan of his earlier work, pre 1910, before he became mainstream and entered the cubist movement. It’s my thing, but Jessica is slowly getting into it. I’m into Impressionism to neo-modern. Jess favors Renaissance. Fun to share and stimulating to talk about.


Finding the Find, Where You Least Expect-A diversion in the dialog—

Speaking of art and painting, not long ago, Jess and I were walking near the beach and passed a large impressive home with a trashcan filled to the brim. Being true to my ‘salvage’ profession, I couldn’t help but snoop around. Poking out the top among the jettison, was part of a frame. I pulled it out. It was industrial in color with an urban theme and signed. I‘m skipping some of the story, but the gist is, the painting was a collectable, painted by the father of Cubist movement in Philadelphia. In fact, the artist, still living confirmed it was his. Salvage can be anywhere. Back to Hungary.

Impressions of Budapest – Is the Danube Really Blue?

The beauty of Budapest is indisputable. Clean, historic, grand, and very aesthetic. The Danube which flows through 10 countries, graces the waterfront and yes, it is blue and other colors as well, depending on the geography.Breathtaking bridge engineering, stunning architecture, and park design, all contribute to this memorable city. However magnificent, our attention was riveted on facades and architectural elements: doors, windows, friezes, gates, railings…the suspense mounting on what salvage treasures would reveal themselves to us in this great city.




Street Encounters

Jessica finds it easy to start a conversation with anyone. Shortly before our Hungary trip, she met an enthusiastic young woman on face book, whose goal and passion is to study opera. She keeps herself afloat by bartending, with aspirations to go to Julliard. The conversation continued in person when we met her at a cozy bar she recommended. After a few glasses of Hungarian wine, she was coaxed into singing. While your computer speakers may not be top of the line Bose, you’ll get the flavor of this talented lady in the video below.


Trending Concepts and Creative Twists

The camaraderie among us was very enjoyable, the bar’s décor intriguing. Designers took a diversity of salvage and made it work, plus added new twists in contemporary furniture design that I hadn’t seen. They integrated diverse styles which melded harmoniously–– a different look, not yet seen in the US. I made visual and mental notes.

We’re always on the look-out for trending concepts and creative twists—In Hungary we saw these in shops, restaurants, high end offices, coffee houses and spas. Armed with inspiration, we brought back sketches and photos to tantalize and engage our customers.

Discovering the Loot

Good contacts—fair prices and outstanding product availability are golden.

All three points are required to not disappoint our clientele. Add to that, limited time to make the catch. We love the adventure and the challenge!  (May I add, most of the time!).

With noses of a bloodhound, off to the “find” we went. Some of the “loot” was from surrounding countries as well as Hungary. Not unusual. In Europe, where countries’ boarders are contiguous and open, objects from other countries always turn up in the find. Stash from this trip included items from Slovakia, Serbia, France, and Romania.

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“Salvage”…the New Kid on the Block

What makes salvage so attractive? With strong interest in the salvage market, buyers are looking for items that tell stories and add pizazz. While antiques; historic, refined and often times scarce will never go out of fashion, it’s time for “Salvage”…the new kid on the block.

Add weathered carved door, a gate, in their natural state, to a home, restaurant or even office. Results, the wow factor. Utilitarian and sizzle, salvage brings interior decor to life. It creates an ambiance that the forward thinking, architects, designers and independent buyers love. Salvage could be referred to as antiques on steroids.

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On the Hunt for Idiosyncratic Finds

Our trip yielded wooden work benches, a wine press, wine barrels, windows, facades, keystones, architectural pieces, plumbing items, utilitarian kitchen and bathroom items, fixtures, iron gates, fencing, earthenware, an ox cart , a motor cycle from WW2, buggy, (no horse) and more.

Being a kitchen and bath lover, I sometimes see an item I have to have. I know 1% of people visiting our shop would not entertain buying it, but it’s a ‘gotta have’. Surprisingly, that 1% walks in and wants it.

Jessica on the other hand, can spot a find a mile away and know it will walk out of the shop before it arrives. Her blue eyes spot the unique–a cross from 1852, nice find. It was a grave marker cross with names on it and an 1830’s rare stained glass piece, of Peter being arrested, found in the dirt beneath her sandals, (really true).



An Ending Worthy of Comment

Near the end of our trip, after an intense buying day, we were enjoying a glass of wine or more at a popular bar called ‘Szimpla’. It’s an old industrial warehouse, catering to old and young alike– packed. The open airy space was imaginatively designed with super interesting salvage.

Sitting not far from us was a large solid looking man, arm wrestling with patrons. Before I knew it, Jessica, finishing up her second glass was up and approaching him for a challenge. Of course he let her win. The crowd applauded.

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Bali 2: Déjà Vu and Reclaimed Glass

Bali 2: Déjà vu and Reclaimed Glass

Back on land we ran into a shop owner selling reclaimed polished glass. Beautiful, rich in color, quasi natural and when viewed at different angles almost kaleidoscope like… what a product! I chuckled to myself and took a quick trip down memory lane. My family was producing these 15-20 years ago and now it’s being reinvented. One never knows when or what markets will pop up and where. Of course we bought all he had. We know what our customers love.



Spotting the Treasures

Having a business such as ours, demands quick but solid decision making. Jess and I are a team and compliment each other—we have the same agenda, different styles. Jess has a great eye, she sees things I don’t and she knows that piece will go and it does… lightening. She’s the queen when it comes to one of a kind finds. I have more of a practical nature, knowing quality and pricing and can bargain well.

Operating with no middleman, allows us that extra margin of investing power­­–– buying right so our clients benefit and so do we.



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Bali Wood, the Best on the Planet

There are tremendous amount of trees, literally everywhere. Whatever they are doing it is eco friendly, albeit not without challenges to expansion. The variety of wood is extensive. Perfect conditions for growing… anything can grow. The wood grains from the tropical trees are finer, the wood denser, resistant to rot and decay and are less likely to warp and bend.

The slabs are huge and we’re already sold out –Some of these slabs come 200ft tall trees, and could be 1,000 to 2,000 years old. They are felled by storms, soil erosion and other natural phenomena. These beautiful woods are the best available in the world today.

The Bali wood business is a family industry, everybody works, its a family  affair, from sales to production and has been for generations—There is no high tech machine, pressed wood or short cuts. Its pegs and dowels. The furniture is built, not “put” together, it’s top notch at a price that is more than equitable.

For my friends, those that want to know more about the different wood, check out the information provided at the end, which was found on the internet.


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Wow, the Taste of Off the Tree Coconut Water

The Balinese people we dealt with love Americans, are smart, respectful, warm, and laid back island people. They have a passion for craftsmanship and a love of beauty and genuinely appreciated the admiration we showed for their products. That’s when they took us to see the real gems in the “back room”!

We were always asked and served refreshments. Picked moments from serving, a coconut would appear with the cool, delicious coconut water inside. Ambrosia! It was not unusual to be given gifts including special ones for our two boys. What a way to do business and its part of the culture!

We are happy to introduce our customers to this market, where we guarantee they will find a treasure to enjoy. Bali, we will be back!

The only draw back and I stress the only, is, it is a 22 hour plane ride from Florida. Oh well what’s a little sacrifice!







Quick Primer on Types of Wood

To give our readers a better description of a few of the tropical woods we encountered, we have included a brief list below. Thank you internet!

Albesia Wood

For colorfully painted folk art style carvings that do not need a lot of carved detail the carver will choose albesia wood. Albesia is a sustainably grown soft wood perfect for this type of carving as it is easy to grow in Bali’s rich organic soil. These fast growing trees are ready to harvest with in 5 years.

Suar Wood

Suar Wood or monkey pod is a type of mahogany. This wood is also sustainably grown in Indonesia. The heart of the wood is darker than the outer layer, creating an interesting two-toned grain. This wood is known for it’s tight, inter-locking fibers that are resistant to cracking, making this wood the perfect choice for larger, thicker carvings.

Teak Wood

Teak has been and continues to be highly desirable. Due to deforestation world wide it now demands a higher market price. Teak is a large, deciduous tree that occurs in mixed hardwood forests. It has small, fragrant white flowers. Teak is one of the most sustainable types of wood. It is one of the hardest, strongest and most durable of natural wood

Frangipani Wood

Frangipani, known for it’s beautiful fragrant flowers is often used by Balinese Master Carvers  for fine art carvings due to its tight fine grain.. The wood will often be chosen by the artist from trees in their own gardens, based on age and unique shape of the wood. Carvings made from Frangipani are one of a kind, as the artist will envision the form with in the wood.

Hibiscus Wood

The color is white with gray heartwood, the darker heartwood  makes for distinctive two-tone pieces. As the wood ages, the gray wood develops a greenish patina , which can create a very distinct look. This wood is usually left the natural color to be polished to a very smooth satin finish. Often the choice for Master Balinese Carvers to sculpt unique one of a kind and detailed fine art carvings.

Crocodile Wood

Crocodile or Satin, a hard wood, is it called so because of the nubby outer bark that resembles a crocodile skin. Inside reveals a creamy white colored wood, which looks like ivory when it is waxed and polished. Balinese artist will use this wood for carvings that are more detailed and higher in quality.

Sri Lanka 1: They Love Americans

Sri Lanka

They Love Americans

Landing in Sri Lanka, Jessica and I were greeted with (in Ayubūvan), “May you live long.” The greeting was warm and friendly from people who genuinely like Americans, even though there are not many who visit this tropical island in the Indian Ocean…yet!




Colombo to Kalutara

Dog tired, but filled with excitement, we drove from the airport to Colombo. The main city was filled with bustling and lively crowded streets, along with a multi ethnic populace of Hindu, Buddhism and Muslim culture. This history dates to over 3,000 years back. The sights and sounds were exotic with a mixture of modern life and colonial ruin. The English and Dutch architecture is still very much evident, and quite impressive.

Exhausted, we found our way to the guest house in Kalutara and fell asleep without dinner. Invigorated and ravishingly hungry, we were awaken the next morning with smells of one of the most delicious and memorable breakfasts––traditional Sri Lankan pancakes made from local, fresh coconut milk and rice flour. Soon after, we met up with our trusted guide, colleague, and friend, Aroush who is a native Sri Lankan, now living in Florida. Off we went into the Sri Lankan back country!

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Temples and Elephant Orphanages

There was so much to do, experience, and absorb. Our travels took us to the southwestern tip of the island, Galle, a major city. It had magnificent Dutch-colonial buildings and beaches. Kandy was the next stop with marveled us with its ministries, temples, elephant orphanage, and lakes. We forged onto Sigiriya next. Its unforgettable ruins of an ancient civilization, sitting on top of a rocky outcrop, with vertical walls that soar nearly above the clouds were breathtaking. We were in another universe, discovering magnificent salvage finds along the way.



Sri Lanka 2: The Craft of Tranquil

Sri Lanka

The Craft of Tranquil

I have always loved hand carving, the tradition passed down from generation to generation. It was particularly special to witness fathers teaching their sons the trade of carving gorgeous woods. Master carvers accompanied by their apprentices were in every village we visited. Here, in Sri Lanka, they take their time and produce wonders for the eye and for touch. They are truly masters of their trade. They frequently carve what they see, like elephants and designs from nature. Statues of a tranquil Buddha or scenes of fisherman and wildlife are also recurring themes. This is all by hand, no power tools––the detail is miraculous.

Carver’s Art

In several cases we saw woodworkers carving large blocks of mahogany, indigenous to Sri Lanka. This particular species mahogany grows no place else on the planet. One block was a series of elephants and foliage. The artisan was into it already for 4 days and he had a long way to go— meticulous work–– fascinating to observe… it was a work of art.

Tuk tuk Anyone

Jessica, my wife, and I love traveling and meeting people.

We met a man we connected with immediately, he’s a tuk tuk driver––called a tuk tuk because of the sound the vehicle makes. His motorized vehicle is a tiny, covered 3 wheeler, which is kind of like a taxi over here. It’s the easiest way to get around. They’ll take you to the jewelry store, craft stores, restaurants, anywhere. If you buy, they get a commission. It’s a way of doing business and helps get everyone involved. We clicked right away. He enjoyed fishing and so do I.

Win Win

There is a joy in what we do, but, it is dedicated work. Our prime objective is finding amazing things that our customers want, at prices that are affordable. We really do go that extra mile (no pun intended), discovering items that can’t be found anywhere else. Every piece we buy, we enjoy. We buy them because they are neat, cool, and always come with a story…a slice of history. There’s no third party in what we do.

We go off the beaten track. We go direct. We do all the planning, preparation for shipping, paperwork, and fumigation of containers….the whole enchilada.


Sri Lanka 3: The Prize

Sri Lanka

The Prize

In addition to the hand carved items we found, we brought back astoundingly beautiful wooden slabs. These came from giant trees, which were naturally fallen. Nature toppled them, not the chain saw. These trees when sliced were found to be up to 8,000 to 10,000 years old. Astounding isn’t it? The wood grain is resplendent––simply exquisite.

We’re making some extraordinary tables—4’ wide and almost 20’ long. Sri Lanka wood craftsmen are busy making coffee tables, side tables, conference, and dining tables for us. The tables made out of the wood we find, is a story unto itself.

Sri Lanka is host to many tropical hardwoods seen nowhere else and quite unheard of in most instances. Take Black Mara, for example. It is a scarce and highly prized tree found at the edge of forests and takes on a golden luster when polished.


Then there is Spalted Tamarind; a beautiful exotic wood often found lying on the forest floor. The rotting effect on Tamarind creates the spalted look that varies from piece to piece.

I had no idea what “spalted’ meant, so thought I would include its definition, compliments of Mr. Webster.

Spalted ; adjective–– (of wood) containing blackish irregular lines as a result of fungal decay, and sometimes used to produce a decorative surface The lines also can be pink to gray and even a variety of colors in the same piece of wood.


Fresh and Delish

Our travels took us through lush verdant jungles with scents of vanilla and cinnamon. Aroush took a side road as we were traveling. Excitedly, he shouted over the noise of the jeep, that he wanted to show us something.

Soon, we found ourselves in a dense jungle, with cobra holes all over the ground. In front of us was a scene too magical to be real. A stand of tropical fruit trees, too many to count, all laden with ripe, lush fruit– an abundance of delectable mangoes, guava, coconut, passion fruit, sapodilla. Sapodilla is a flavorful fruit that tastes like a pear with brown sugar. There were so many others I had never heard of. We stuffed ourselves silly with the sweet juicy fruit.

Joy of Laughter

Along the rutted dirt road, near the fruit trees was a car, packed with kids, 15 or more doing the same thing we were, having an “off the tree” snack of pure deliciousness.

Jessica, who kids love, immediately made friends with all of them, or should I say Jessica and her cell phone. The kids were wildly enthusiastic, taking photos of each other under Jessica’s direction. On the way back to our seaside lodging at beautiful Kalutara, Jessica remarked more than once, how full of life and happiness these kids were.