Al Teman has a penchant for salvage, but his Silver Lake home in no way resembles a salvage yard. A surplus of discarded doors, for example, is neatly stacked in storage. Antique books, magazines and other ephemera are painstakingly sorted and filed according to genre, with labels such as "Communism," "Kids," "Scientology," "Old Menus" and "Crazy Headlines From Newspapers." The flooring, made from what he calls "100 different types of wood," is surprisingly elegant.
Teman, a contractor, may have clients who want new granite countertops and pristine custom cabinetry, but his own home reflects an obsession with repurposing the old.
"Everything in the house is found," Teman says of the goods he has discovered in the trash or along the side of the road. "The stuff is there for free everywhere. You just have to find it."
Very little is original to the 1909 house. After years of rebuilding the once-condemned home -- it was red-tagged after the 1994 Northridge earthquake -- Teman has created his own cabinet of wonder filled with a lifelong collection of things, from the mundane to the bizarre, all orderly arranged and carefully put away.
Of his obsessive collecting and organizational impulses, he simply says, "It's a blessing and a curse."
Even the minutiae have a sense of order. Glass jars lining a shelf inside Teman's workshop are filled with buttons and knobs, old pins and military paraphernalia -- materials to be used later to decorate the acoustic guitars he creates on the side.
Teman claims to have found a Picasso etching in a Los Feliz trash bin. Though colorful artworks adorn the walls, other items are hidden from view. Hundreds of doorknobs fill some of the drawers in an oversized armoire partly built out of large wood boxes, picture frames and Victorian molding. Another drawer serves as a repository for wigs and muumuus.
"For parties," Teman says. "I have so many pieces of things that I can't let go of."
Although some things have been installed out of necessity -- the patio surface made of recycled brick, the living room floor salvaged from a high school basketball court -- many items serve as quirky decorative elements. In the study, an old Victrola phonograph has been transformed into a desk. In the entryway, a hotel mailbox found new life as an Arts and Crafts-flavored display case. Adding to the ambience of what Teman calls the "quintessential guy house," a brick alcove made out of salvaged chimney bricks serves as the backdrop for a dart board.
The touches reflect Teman's personality and quest to establish an environment clearly his own. In what had been a closet, he spins music by jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, the record room now complete with stacks of LPs, groovy lava lamps and an old-fashioned vinyl player. Teman also transformed a bedroom into a bathroom, with a claw-foot tub he scored for $25 and -- squeamish readers, please skip the rest of this sentence -- the urinal trough he repurposed into a long sink.
Outside, Teman points out "the best Scrabble bed in all of America," a frame and mattress used to create a sleeping porch where he likes to play the game.
The wild configurations of things don't always make sense. But do they need to?
"The house was disgusting," he says, recalling the first time he saw it. "But I had a background in foundation, so I wasn't scared when the dining room floor caved in."
Since then, finding stuff has become a sixth sense. "When I see the right dumpster," he says, "I'll know it immediately." Construction sites often dump old doors and windows, he says, even rarities including fir beams and leaded glass. "You can't even find fir beams anymore," he says, referring to their scarcity in stores. "But you'll find them in a dumpster."
What if he's driving down the street and doesn't have room to pick up that next roadside relic?
"I'll tie it on to something," he says. "I'm really good with knots."