Steve Lecas, owner of Gander Builders in Frankfort, Ill., scours the Internet and flea markets for architectural remnants, then incorporates them in his new-home construction. He has repurposed 150-year-old chimney pots from English manor houses and flooring and beams from an 1870s Georgia barn. Ceiling tiles from an old church in France became floor tiles in a new French country–style home. 

"I get a feel from the client and I look around for salvage elements that will reflect that," says Lecas, whose 12-year-old company builds several homes each year ranging from $850,000 to $5 million. 

Lecas works with multiple salvage companies and looks for anything from a vintage claw-foot bathtub to period hardware for contemporary cabinets. The cost of the salvaged materials is absorbed in the home price; however, Lecas says the real ROI on this is tapping into the buyer’s aesthetic passions in a unique way. 

"It’s the old stuff that sells the new house," he says.

Dan Daley is a freelance journalist based in New York and Nashville.