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Aesthetic Concerns

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by Steven Diegel

SBJ Contributing Writer

Seeking the original bricks from a colonial fireplace to add a little flavor to a family room? Antique fixtures or a hand-crafted staircase for an entry foyer? Or other similar classical components to incorporate into a new or remodeled home or office?

Aesthetic Concerns, founded in 1980, collects such hard-to-find items and retails them to those seeking something out-of-the-ordinary.

"We deal with architectural antiques which we salvage from homes, buildings, auctions, and estate sales," said Tom Hembree, owner of the Springfield-based business. The firm offers "nearly anything that is removable from a house."

Available items vary substantially and can originate from any part of a house or other building, according to Hembree. Common features include lighting fixtures, fireplace mantles, staircases, and columns. Doors and stained-glass windows have also proven quite popular with customers throughout the southwest Missouri area.

While not a new trend, Hembree said the option to incorporate special features into a home or business has grown considerably in the last 10 years. More people are paying attention to appearances and will look for something pleasing to the eye even if it means a little work searching for the right piece.

"Our name tells you all Aesthetic Concerns," Hembree said.

"Anyone can go and ... buy a door and scatter them through the house," he said. "But when people are spending $300,000 to $400,000 on a home, they want something different."

Construction companies in particular have taken note of this sentiment, according to Hembree, as a growing number of builders seek such features for new projects.

"Seventy-five percent of my business is with new construction, as they incorporate it into new houses or buildings," Hembree said.

The availability of materials can vary considerably depending on their rarity and the location searched. The larger or older cities typically have a greater market with much more source material from which to work, so some dealer collections can get to be quite substantial.

"In the bigger cities like Chicago there is a lot more source material which can get pretty extensive," Hembree said. And the competition for those items can be fierce. "Some of these businesses have been around for 30 or 40 years or more," he said.

However, few such distributors exist in the Springfield area.

Hembree finds the items he sells through word of mouth and by keeping an eye on ads for auctions and estate sales.

After nearly 20 years of collecting, he had an extensive inventory of goods to start with. He also keeps in touch with a network of retailers that pools its resources, which include locations throughout Europe.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Tom Hembree hunts down unique architectural touches from old buildings for reuse, primarily in new construction.[[In-content Ad]]

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