Sustainable Décor: The Art of Recycled Housewares

There’s a few basics to keep in mind when turning someone else’s “trash” into "treasure" for your home. Follow these simple tips to create cheap decor items like a breeze.

By Christina Best

 

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Photos by Christina Best

This old window was picked up for free from the renovation site of an old Philadelphia home. It serves as an excellent picture frame, providing old-home charm and protection for the picture

 

A quick drive around the neighborhood on a rainy evening before trash day can be a depressing reminder to us consumers that many costly items just don’t retain their value. Lining the curb are loveseats with one severely stained cushion propped up to dissuade trash-pickers, picture frames with pieces and corners popping apart, wooden dressers with deepening water-stains, and once-popular utilitarian shelving units that have now gathered rust in a damp basement. Since the cost of home ownership can be daunting, who wants to invest money in home décor that will eventually sit drenched on the curb, soaking in the cold rain of an overnight storm?

 

Fortunately, for both us and the planet, many things can be repurposed to fill needs they were not originally intended for.

 

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This antique dresser was purchased for $40 from a seller on Craigslist. It was cleaned and sealed with water-based polyurethane to prepare it as an infant changing table. The drawers for clothing and supplies provide easy access for all of a parent’s needs!

 

Have you seen old glass milk containers doubling as light fixtures at your local coffee-shop? Been impressed by your friend’s antique dresser converted to changing table? Browsed wistfully through a creative boutique at ornate picture frames transformed into chic chalkboards and romantic wine bottle candlestick holders drizzled in wax? While many make the art of repurposing seem effortless, there are a few cheap home hacks that any amateur interior designer can use to spruce up their living space for little-to-no money at all.

 

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To save money down the road, homeowners may want to ask themselves a few quick questions before purchasing any home décor. Ask yourself: Is this item well-made? Can it be refinished, reupholstered, painted, or used in multiple rooms in my space? Do I like it because it’s aesthetically pleasing to me, or am I drawn to it because it’s in style right now?

 

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This decorative ewer was purchased for $2 at Goodwill Industries, and has been repurposed as a planter for an Oxalis triangularis plant (purple shamrock).

 

Remember, interior design trends quickly change. Items for your home should ultimately be beautiful to you.

 

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This driftwood was pulled from the shores of Herrington Lake near Harrodsburg, Kentucky. The steep rock face along the lake provides excellent ground for wood to weather. Salvaged for free, this natural piece provides dimension and depth to the art in this space.

 

Tips for Strategic Repurposing

1. Make a list of needs or wants for your space.

 

2. Consider the actual functionality of each piece you want. For example, you need a canister for the kitchen counter for large cooking utensils. The functionality of the piece considers depth (deep enough to adequately hold the utensils) and width of opening (proportionate to what you’d like to store).

 

3. Consider underused items you already own that might fit a need or want. Do you have an extra earthen flower-pot you’ve been waiting to use? Is there a large vase you were gifted that hasn’t held anything in months? Have you nostalgically kept a tall, cylindrical metal tin from your Grandmother for storing Christmas cookies you bake once a year? Any of these items can be repurposed for your kitchen utensils.

 

4. Think of yourself as the uncreative type? Try searching Pinterest, Etsy, or Google for the item you need. A short phrase will do, for example: bathroom shelf. You’ll quickly introduce to yourself a plethora of ideas that will help you reconsider items you already own.

 

5. If you think of an item that might uniquely fill your need, but you don’t own one, consider checking the local Goodwill, consignment shop, eBay, or Craigslist. Oftentimes, you can find gently-used items of good quality in each of these places.

 

Unconvinced? Check out some more cheap decor items that were repurposed!

 

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This Indian saree was purchased at Goodwill Industries for $2. The mirrored embroidery serves as a beautiful and light canopy for this bedroom, and inspires the mirror art on the bedroom wall.

 

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This crocheted ribbon was salvaged from a wrapped gift. It adds unique color and texture to this card display.