The mantra reduce, reuse, recycle has been an effective phrase for years now.
Operating under founder Tom Szaky’s belief that “there is no such thing as trash,” TerraCycle has become a global leader in recycling hard-to-recycle waste. The company’s global offices are furnished with upcycled waste, incorporating innovative reuse of items ranging from old wood pallets to LPs.
And with a creative eye and a bit of elbow grease, you can find new ways to reuse old items in your home — with delightful results.
Finding a new purpose for pieces of furniture you already have reduces your overall environmental impact. It also gives you a way to become a frugal and funky visionary. Each previously used item has the potential to serve an essential function or become a unique work of art.
Furniture is built to last
We know that new, well-made furniture is incredibly expensive. But it’s amazing what a new coat of paint or refinishing can do to improve the look of a used desk or dresser. Head to any store that specializes in secondhand furniture, and you will quickly see that many of the best finds have already been in use for decades.
A sturdy piece of furniture is meant to last for years, so start your redecorating endeavors with a treasure hunt at a local thrift store — or your grandmother’s attic. Here are some ideas to help turn your finds into fashion statements:
- Free is the magic number! Start your search at places like the Freecycle Network and the free section of Craigslist. Also, let friends know that you are on the lookout for furniture in need of rehab.
- Frames and mirrors can be painted to match your color scheme, or consider covering the original print with wallpaper or fabric for exactly the look you want.
- Bookshelves, desks, tables, and chairs can all be transformed with a new coat of paint. For a funkier option, consider sponging on paint or peeling or sanding off old layers of color. Remember to look for low-VOC or zero-VOC paints and finishes.
- Embrace the magic of new fabric! You may not like the color of that couch, but if the couch is comfortable and well-made, a new fabric cover can create the perfect addition to your living room.
Hire an expert
If the idea of doing it yourself is just too overwhelming or time-consuming, ask around for recommendations of interior designers, artists, and carpenters that use repurposed goods. Upcycling old furniture is beneficial for your budget and the planet, and many designers are starting to work with recycled building materials.
If you are contemplating a remodeling project, ask the builders and designers you are working with if they would be willing to work with repurposed wood and other supplies. For a fresh look without buying new furniture, some designers will “redecorate” your home by moving and revamping the possessions you already have.
Fab fashion finds
A remodeling project can be a bit daunting, but you can find fashion throughout your entire home. When thinking about ways to revamp your closet, thrift and vintage stores are always a good first stop. There are now also fashion brands that work with upcycled materials .
The possibilities for reuse also extend far beyond the clothes closet and range from high-end and fabulous to affordable and chic. Sandhi Schimmel Gold creates mosaic artwork out of waste paper such as junk mail, photos, and calendars.
Schedule a consult with contractors
Even if you don’t consider yourself crafty or just aren’t sure where to begin, you can easily avoid an unwieldy experience with a little guidance. There are several blogs and Web sites devoted to ideas for revamping everything from your old vinyl records (it becomes a bowl here) to T-shirts:
- Craftplace is an excellent first stop for those looking for inspiration. It is a clearinghouse for resources, blogs, ideas and even a discussion forum, which can double as a support group for the newly-minted reuser.
- Cathe Holden writes the blog Just Something I Made and has many ideas for making everything from a custom baseball cap to a an old wallet converted into a vintage photo frame.
- Craftster’s weekly “Keepin it Green” section highlights DIY projects that have a low environmental impact including how to turn a wine bottle into a lamp.
- You can find repurposed remodeling ideas galore at Design Sponge.
Whether you come up with your own project or follow in the footsteps of a friend or blogger, with a little bit of interest and ingenuity, you are sure to create a low-impact treasure.