My 3 Monsters: Repurposing 101

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Repurposing 101

About a week ago I taught a class to the women at church about Repurposing.  At first when I was asked to do it, I wasn't sure what to say.  I mean -- Step 1:  go to Goodwill or DI and buy something cheap, Step 2: make it into something cool.  Boom.  That's a really short class.  The more I thought about it, though, the more ideas kept coming to me.  I do actually have a kind of a system for what I will buy and what I won't.  I have a few places that I like to shop and a few items I always see that are no-brainer fixer-uppers.  I thought I'd share some of those ideas here with y'all, too.  To keep it interesting, I'll sprinkle in some pictures of repurposing and thrift store makeover projects I have done along the way.

Repurposing 101

I became a "repurposer" the day I married my husband.  I had just graduated from BYU one week prior to our wedding with a BFA in Interior Design and Brent was still a student.  He was working an on-campus part-time job and I was working my first design job up in Salt Lake.  We were pretty much broke and we had nothing.  {I don't know what we were thinking.  I guess we were young and in love and that's all that mattered at the time.}  Luckily, my parents had just purchased some new furniture so they gave us their old stuff as a wedding gift.  It was awesome because otherwise we would have been sitting on the floor just looking at each other a lot.  

Our first apartment was in the basement of an old house, so picture me -- young, brand new interior designer with a head full of ideas for the beautiful home I would have -- sitting down on my parent's old furniture in that yucky basement, wondering what I had gotten myself into.  My new-graduate-with big-dreams honeymoon ended as soon as my real honeymoon did.  I was undaunted, though.  I was determined to make that stuff we had into the stuff I wanted to live with.  And really, that's what I've been doing ever since.  I may never have a house full of brand new, really nice things in this lifetime, but what I DO have is a home that is comfortable {and kinda' cute, if I do say so myself} that is a really good reflection of our family. 

Two of my favorite saying are:

Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.
It's not what you have, it's what you do with what you have.

Those are my mantras when it comes to decorating my home.  That and, "Maybe someday . . . "

Things That Are Readily Available and Easy to Repurpose:

We all dream of the "big score" when were thrifting -- that amazing dresser for $1, or the antique china hutch that no one will ever believe you thrifted.  Those are the "white whales" of thrifting.  If you find one, buy it on the spot and tell everyone you know because you deserve the kudos.  More often -- almost always -- you'll find less impressive things that are still really great repurposing buys, like these:

1.  Glass Jars and Vases -- Hello, mason jars!  If you've spent any time on Pinterest at all you know there a myriad of ways to use mason jars.  Paint the lids and add cool knobs for vanity or desk top storage.  Paint them with chalk paint and use as vases.  I replaced the glass globes on my bathroom light fixture with jars for a cottage-y look.

2.  Old Books -- The older and yellower, the better if you ask me.  Again, Pinterest can supply you with a million ideas for projects with old books.  Here are a few of my own:

3.  Frames -- I'm not necessarily so good at "repurposing" frames, but they are some of my favorite thrift-store makeover items.  I love finding really cool frames that have neat details and repainting them to bring them back to life. My message here is that art doesn't have to cost a lot of money.  You can make stuff to hang on your walls that is perfectly tailored to your family.

4.  Dishes and Silverware -- I'll hang a good-loking plate on my wall and call it art.  Nowadays, plate walls are all the rage.  Here are a few other things you can do:

5. T-Shirts -- the bigger the better because it gives you more fabric to work with!

6. Furniture -- There will always be old furniture in the stores, but the good stuff is pretty hit and miss.  There are some really fun things you can do:

6.  Light Fixtures and Lamps -- I saved my favorite for last.  I LOVE to take an ugly old pendant light apart, paint it, and put it back together as a fun chandelier.  These are probably the most satisfying projects to me and the most fun.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Shopping:

1. What else could this be used for?  Be creative and think out of the box.  You may find a tool chest when you are looking for a bed-side table, like I did when I redid my boys' bedroom.  A cool dining table makes a great desk.  A ceramic platter makes a good dry erase board.  You get the idea.

2.  Will it fit where I want to use it?  If you are looking for a specific space, take measurements and a measuring tape with you!  It would be super disappointing to buy a really cool dresser that you want to turn into a bathroom vanity only to find that it is an inch or two too long.

3.  How much time/effort/expense will this require?  Some things are going to need a lot of work and it may not be worth your time and effort to do it.  That chair may only cost $10, but factor in the cost of fabric and the ten hours it will take to reupholster it and it may not be such a good buy after all.

4.  Is it worth fixing up?  Some things were just junk to begin with and no amount of love will change that. 

5.  Am I really going to do this?  You might have big plans and be super excited about it in the moment, but are you going to actually do it, or will it sit in your garage untouched after reality sets in?  A $10 chair is not a good buy if it sits in your garage forever.

Weapons in Your Repurposing Arsenal

1. Paint -- almost everything looks better with a fresh coat of paint.  Spray paint, chalk paint, acrylic craft paint, sample jars from the home improvement store, you name it!

2.  Mod Podge -- lots of things can be saved by Mod-Podging fabric or decorative paper onto it.

3.  Staple Gun -- good for reupholstery or working with my personal favorite, chicken wire.

4.  Hot Glue Gun -- don't tell anyone, but I might have used a few dabs of hot glue as an extra set of hands when reupholstering something or putting up trim work.  It's good for a lot more than just crafts.

5.  Gorilla Glue / E6000 -- both super strong glues that attach surfaces other than paper together.  Especially good for attaching metal to almost anything.

I'm sure there are a thousand other things we could add to those lists, but it's a pretty good start.  I hope that inspires you to go out this weekend and find yourself a project!

Have a great day!


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