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“A Glorious Pigeon Coop and Rat Motel”

I love old stuff. I’m sure a lot of my appreciation comes from being a photographer — the camera loves decay like Top Chef loves Padma’s boobs. I also grew up in a turn of the century house, and my earliest, fondest memories are of peeling fabric wallcoverings, stained ceilings, and wood burning stoves. It’s the stuff teary eyed nostalgia is made of. So when I saw this renovation of an early 1900s abandoned building, I could almost feel the paint chips dusting my eyelashes. Ah, memories.

Industrial designer David Hurlbut has spent the last 10 years renovating this 20,000 square foot building in Selma, Alabama. Purchased for the ridiculous sum of $100,000, Hurlbut has also spent an additional $150,000 in renovation costs.

Considering the size and previous condition of this beast, I’d say that’s next to nothing. Apparently the home was in shambles when Hurlbut moved in; the pigeon offerings alone filled several dumpsters.

Much of the low renovation costs can be explained by his sense of preservation. Whenever possible, all of the original flooring, woodwork and walls were kept and simply cleaned.

Other finishings were bought second hand on the cheap, like these vintage light fixtures.

The refrigerator was purchased from a New Orleans jazz musician for $100. The story goes that Louis Armstrong also used the fridge a time or two.

A few items — like the hand cast gargoyle above the bed in this room — were made by Hurlbut himself, who is an industrial designer by trade.

In other cases Hurlbut kept and refurbished fixtures — case in point, these original chandeliers.

More examples of frugality personified: the chair on the left was $3 and the working ham radio was a gift.

“It’s a joke amongst my friends… If if’s not big, old, heavy, and obsolete, David doesn’t want it.”

I love it all, except the peeling paint looks like lead poisoning on a stick. Cover that with a clear satin finish, stat!

It’s really a wonder that I’m not dead from some kind of toxic dust, considering that I spent 15 years living in an old house that was constantly under renovation. Still, I would do just about anything to live in a house like this again… anything except move to Alabama. Sorry ‘Bama lovers.

Check out the beautifully photographed NY Times slide show here.

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