Materials Unlimited evolved from a demolition company co-owned by our founder, Reynold Lowe. Trained in the fine arts, Reynold earned his MFA from the University of Michigan in sculpture and photography. While a student, he also taught in the School of Fine Art and the School of Architecture.
His artistic sensibilities naturally include a passion for architectural details! His first salvage job was an old house in Ann Arbor slated for demolition. What began as a personal project quickly led to an entrepreneurial venture! In 1972, Reynold joined forces with the demolition contractor and saved countless architectural treasures from the bulldozer!
The need for a retail outlet quickly became evident and, in 1974, Materials Unlimited was born! Reynold’s treasures were originally housed in 3 pole barns on Morgan Road in the industrial outskirts of Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 1979, an unfortunate fire began two doors down. It spread to our neighbor, Farmer’s Oil, causing an explosion of fuel oil that doused and engulfed our buildings. The inferno ravaged our collection! After the flames subsided, a lone potbelly stove stood in the ashes, misshapen by the heat.
A true Phoenix, in 1981 Materials Unlimited re-opened better than before. Our “new” home is an historic Art Deco building in downtown Ypsilanti dating to 1926. It was originally a Studebaker Packard dealership, but served as a USO Hall and then a Moose Lodge before we moved in. Our 15,000 square foot showroom is comprised of three floors brimming with antiques, restored fireplace mantels, leaded glass doors, stained and beveled glass windows, salvaged hardware, and other architectural items. We are especially known for our collection of restored period lighting.
Over the years, Materials Unlimited has evolved into a full service facility. Our production department works five days a week restoring antique furniture and architectural appointments. Our lighting restoration department is a UL listed shop. We rewire our antique light fixtures using UL approved replacement parts to ensure safety while preserving beauty. Creative new uses for salvaged antiques are our specialty. We love transforming salvaged doors into front bars, church altars into bathroom vanities or kitchen islands, and beveled glass into headboards.
Fortunately today, historic buildings are more often restored than destroyed, but this does make salvaged details harder to find. We pride ourselves on having one of the nation’s most impressive collections. It is exceptional and it is ever changing. Each visit to Materials Unlimited is different because Reynold is always seeking out beautiful and unusual items to offer our customers.
Our talented staff of Architectural Design Consultants can help customers with large projects or small. Collectively, we have years of experience with restoration, renovation, new construction, and, simply, decoration. We love helping people personalize their homes with beautiful antiques and architectural gems!
We have been in our current location since 1981. The building itself was built in 1927, designed by the architects Cuthbert & Cuthbert. They were based in Ann Arbor, and were involved in a few residences in the Barton Hills neighborhood. Ivan Cuthbert was known for his work around Ann Arbor and SE Michigan and the Platt School. There is no mention of our building other than on a photograph taken in 1928, a year after the building was finished.
During World War 2, the bomber plants built at Willow Run airport brought a huge influx of workers and military personnel. During this time the facility underwent a major transition and became a USO hall. At that time, a dance floor and bandstand were installed into one corner of the main floor showroom. Later, after the war, the facility became a Moose Lodge. It remained that until Reynold purchased the property from the Moose in 1981.