If you think piano bars are cheesy relics of another age, you haven’t seen the Salvage Sisters’ version. “It’s one of our favorite pieces, actually,” says Amy Carr, displaying the Facebook photo of a 100-year-old upright piano that she and her twin sister, Christie Wallace, gutted and converted into a freestanding bar. Carr removed each piano wire by hand (but kept the tuner’s original pencil markings inside the cabinet); the keys were repurposed to hold wineglasses; and they added cubbies for wine bottles and a map showing all the places the piano has been. “It had been with a military family and had a really interesting history,” says Carr.
They launched Salvage Sisters Restoration & Interior Design a year ago, intending to scavenge thrift stores and auction sites for furniture to renew or repurpose and then sell at shows in their East Price Hill studio. But one photo changed all that: a custom shiplap paneled wall they did for a client in Western Hills. “We posted that on Facebook and it went bonkers,” says Carr. Salvage Sisters suddenly became so busy with clients wanting interior design they didn’t have any time to create furniture on spec. “We’re going into a lot of people’s houses now,” says Wallace, citing jobs from Pittsburgh to Indian Hill.
Carr and Wallace are used to rolling with the punches, even when the blows are devastating. In November 2014, Carr was diagnosed with stage-IV non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The cancer had spread; intensive chemotherapy followed. Then the sisters punched back. Says Carr, “As soon as I got sick, Christie texted me and said, ‘Do you want to start a business?’”
Both sisters were already working in fields they found increasingly incompatible with family life. Carr, an attorney, was overwhelmed by her busy practice, and Wallace (who used to own the Mustard Seed consignment boutique in Clifton) found her job in pharmaceutical sales unfulfilling. But cancer has a way of reordering priorities quickly. Already experienced home flippers, Carr and Wallace wanted to spend their time doing what they loved, like sanding smooth a custom` hickory dining table, or turning a dated buffet into a contemporary bathroom sink vanity.
With Carr’s cancer in remission, a growing list of clients, and HGTV circling the duo for a potential new show, the decision to launch Salvage Sisters is looking a lot like destiny. “It’s kind of been a blessing in disguise,” says Carr of her cancer, “because it’s why we’re doing this.”
Scroll through to see examples of the Salvage Sisters’ work:
Furniture photographs courtesy of Salvage Sisters.