Whimsical Finds, Movie Magic and Tricked Out Shipping Containers: Round Top’s Recycling the Past
To call the collection unexpected does not do it justice. It's more like Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.
If you think you’ve taken the full tour of Round Top, you might have missed a little something. Or a not so little something.
Just past all the tents at Warrenton, where the fields begin to peter out, and the bumper to bumper traffic during antiques shows starts to open up, hang a right on FM 1291. Not far down that lonely, uninhabited stretch of road is where you’ll find Recycling the Past.
Just when you think you’ve left no stone unturned, and that there’s nothing left to see.
On site is a 12,000-square-foot warehouse/showroom, which doubles as an events venue dubbed Round Top Ballroom. The agave rimmed building is surrounded by another eight acres strewn with unique architectural salvage and The Flophouze Shipping Container Hotel.
To call the collection unexpected doesn’t do it justice. To say it’s a treasure trove does not even come close. Recycling the Past is more like Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium ― sprinkled with magic dust and cloaked in mystery. Many of the items are sure to spark a sense of whimsy. I had a smile on my face throughout my entire tour.
Reclying the Past owner Matt White started buying and selling mostly salvaged finds more than 25 years ago in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Recycling the Past was born in 1995 in Barnegat, New Jersey. White still splits his time between Barnegat and Round Top. His Round Top showroom is open by appointment only most of the year. And fully open during the Round Top Antiques Shows. You’ll find ample design inspiration, and plenty of quirky finds to scavenge. Most of which won’t fit in the back of your SUV.
White’s clients include big names such as Nordstrom, Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters. These major brands seek out Recycling the Past’s novel assortment, along with those intriguing salvaged items and pieces with real provenance to give their spaces an instant aura. I noticed a full pallet of wood floor boards salvaged from railcars tagged for delivery to REI on my recent visit.
“I only buy what I like,” White tells RoundTop.com. “That way if I’m stuck with it, at least I enjoy it. When cool stuff pops up, we still buy and sell as the core of our business.”
The scouting and collecting are the fun part, but the business of selling the treasured finds is hard work. Not just anyone is in the market for a weathered 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser, like the one White shipped back from Australia and parked in his RoundTop warehouse. Or the taxidermied giraffe that was acquired at auction.
In the market for historic stained glass windows, mid-century artworks, a classic 1973 BMW motorcycle? Recycling the Past has got them. Looking for intricate wrought iron or marble accents, specially hewn wood specimens and signage, including dramatic neon? You’re in the right place.
There is no telling where the giant twin mirrors, framed by aluminum airplane engine casings, will finally land. Or which designer will find truly irresistible the molten glass pieces that White saved from an old plate glass kiln and polished to full effect. They certainly caught my attention.
“Sometimes you’ve got to set the trends and teach people what they like,” White says. “I’m trying to stay ahead of the curve without trying too hard.”
Recycling the Past even rents props to film, theater and TV projects. Legendary director Steven Spielberg utilized some fantastic period props from Recycling the Past for his adaptation of West Side Story when he filmed in Patterson, New Jersey.
White employs green building techniques all along the way, repurposing and salvaging architectural and design elements. His Flophouze Shipping Container Hotel project has gained national attention for its clever adaptations of an all too often cast-off, utilitarian object.
There is even a build-your-own option for those who’d like to live in a green shipping container. They can be built to suit, and ship directly to your property.
White was early to the party in spotting this shipping container hotel trend.
“They don’t fly off the shelf because we tend to do things a little over-the-top,” he admits of the design details you’ll find inside each Flophouze.
There are six Flophouzes, along with a pool and two homes dubbed The Beachouze and The Farmhouze, for rent on the property of Recycling the Past. It’s a cool venue — and you’ll need to book far in advance to stay during antiques show weeks.
White knows that Recycling the Past is in a category of its own.
“It’s an ever evolving project,” he says. “Our business is moving from salvage to more design pieces. We’re trying to bring fresh products and design ideas to the market.”
And you thought you’d seen it all in Round Top?