Bill Raymer of Restoration Resources
© Holly Rike 2017, All rights reserved.
“I’ve always loved to take things apart and put them back together,” Bill Raymer says when asked how he got into the salvaging industry. Disassembling and reconstructing goes to the heart of his South End business, Restoration Resources, a 7,000-square-foot showroom and warehouse filled with thousands of mostly architectural pieces that Raymer has rescued from demolitions and remodeling projects.
Everything here has a story. There is a massive wooden table from Boston Public Library, windows from Symphony Hall, phone booths from an old Eastie dive bar and towering columns that once stood outside a historic home in West Roxbury. Sometimes the pieces arrive in, well, pieces—or otherwise worse for wear—but they are painstakingly restored for sale by Raymer and his righthand man, Walter Santory, inside Restoration’s snug workroom.
Raymer is interested in big, sturdy, largely structural pieces. You won’t find kitchenette sets or upholstered love seats here. “We’re not a furniture store,” Raymer says. Ironically, the Washington Street space was, in a past life, a furniture store, and the space sits over an old fallout shelter. (Inside are boxes of ration crackers dated 1962. Raymer managed to move a couple on eBay.)
Nearly everything inside the cavernous building is for sale—or for rent, for photo shoots or Boston-set film productions. “Almost every motion picture that comes through town, the set decorators know to come here,” Raymer says.
Raymer has become a go-to guy for many of New England’s top designers and amateur do-it-yourselfers too. They hunt through his hoards to find one-of-a-kind relics that can be used as new interior fixtures. When Raymer set up shop in 1988, leaving behind a career in architectural printing and graphic arts, nearly all his business revolved around providing parts for historic restoration projects. Now about half of sales are for new construction or repurposed design elements, says Raymer, who attributes much of the change to trends set by HGTV-style shows.
Restoration Resources does repurpose some pieces itself—mostly smaller saleable items, like wine stoppers made from antique doorknobs and candle holders made from 150-year-old Beacon Hill brownstone stair balusters. Inside Circa, a gentleman’s parlor-like event space housed inside the showroom, a large bar is constructed from a combo of wall wainscoting, fireplace mantel and wooden bookcase. Circa can be rented for private parties, but Restoration also uses it to host DIY workshops and other experiences. On May 6, as part of ArtWeek Boston, Circa will host a Q&A panel of salvage design experts, including Nantucket’s Leslie Linsley, who’ll be signing copies of her new book Salvage Style, and local designer Brendan Haley.
Haley has turned to Restoration Resources for a number of projects, like the Milton restaurant Steel & Rye, where the host station was made from mailboxes, and Brookline’s Fairsted Kitchen, where wooden arch spandrels were repurposed as dining booth dividers.
In fact, restaurant work has become big business for Raymer—no surprise, with new venues popping up in Boston all the time. In one corner of the warehouse, Raymer points out massive iron chandeliers he retrieved from Union Bar and Grille, a now-closed restaurant that stood down the street; right under the chandeliers is a stockpile of salvaged iron radiators, some of which were used for the design of La Motta’s, the very restaurant that replaced Union.
And there you have it, the salvager’s circle of life: Break apart—then build anew.