Reduce, reuse, recycle. A mantra that evokes thoughts of writing on both sides of the paper or hauling bags of soda cans—a pain in the ass, but easy enough to do. But there’s also repurpose, which is harder than it sounds when confronted with $900 reclaimed wood garden benches or impressive yet seemingly impossible projects, like turning a pinball machine into a desk.
A good place to start, as any T.G.I. Fridays knows, is artwork—we’re not talking about hanging old farm tools on the walls but pulling out your cool shit from drawers and shelves and finding a way to put it where you can appreciate it all the time. Zia Records sells frames that allow you to hang LPs or 45s without damage—why hide that original King Records pressing of James Brown Live at the Apollo or the slickly designed trivia question that is a Sigue Sigue Sputnik album? My kitchen has both skate decks and old casino signage adorning the walls, and the towel rack is a vintage Dragnet target game my dad had when he was a kid.
Another not-too-complicated repurpose can be turning something into a table. My coffee table is actually an old metal card file whose drawers used to hold medical information but are also the perfect size for DVDs (it also goes nicely with the metal film reel holder I use to store 45s). Many things can be turned into tables—wood pallets, slices of logs, Ouija boards, mirrors. Sets of wooden table legs are available at large hardware stores; for a more modern/industrial look, you can order metal legs from hairpinlegs.com.
There are a number of repurposing websites that can provide inspiration and/or instruction. Check out myrepurposedlife.com for non-discouraging, shabby-chic projects such as turning a drawer into a cabinet and a nightstand into a desk with a chalkboard surface. A site more geared toward inspiration than instructions (though they have those, too) is recyclart.org—it includes everything from how to make a new tabletop out of tin cans to constructing a 10-foot robot out of vacuum cleaners. Another site is upcyclethat.com, which entices the crafty with ways to take that ladder, sweater, light bulb or steamer trunk and transform it into something new and useful.