A beautiful home, and a beautiful Earth—that’s what you get when you decorate with recycled materials.
Many people hear the word ‘recycling’ and think of old newspapers or tacky installation pieces made of rusty faucets and old rubber tires. However, there are many quality pieces, made by talented crafters, that anyone would proudly display in their living rooms. Aside from that, there are other ways you can still ‘go green’ and stay true to your interior decorating style. Here are some tips.
1. Raid your basement and attic.
Chances are there are lots of beautiful furniture right in your home that are gathering dust in your attic or basement. That table may look worn-out, or that sofa may be covered in ghastly fabric that was (unfortunately) in style in the 1960’s, but these items can easily be restyled. Maybe all the table needs is a new coat of paint or varnish. And it only takes one quick visit to a fabric store or a call to a furniture professional to give your sofa a modern makeover.
2. Shop second hand.
Garage sales, thrift stores and flea markets are full of beautiful items, which are sold at a very reasonable price, too. And don’t judge a book by its cover (or a cabinet by its color). Think, ‘How can I remodel this?’ Many of these only need a little DIY-loving—strip off the paint, fix those cracks, change the fixtures. Sure, these take a little extra time and effort, but you’ll be doing the Earth a favor, plus creating a unique piece that you won’t find anywhere else.
3. Look for new uses for old things.
That old vase with an interesting pattern can be made into an interesting table lamp. That picture frame with the ornate gilding can be taken apart and used as a molding, or remade into a shadow box to display mementos. You can also cut off the worn-out sections of a carpet and turn it into a throw rug.
4. Support local artists.
A lot of artists scour garage sales and antique stores looking for items they can repurpose. For example, they glue the pages of old books with leather bindings, cut a square through the center with a craft saw, and turn them into shadow boxes. Others make interesting sculptures or mixed-media paintings that incorporate discarded materials or found objects. Many of their works are sold on etsy.com. Considering buying décor from them—you’ll help the environment, and support the local craft industry, too.
5. Buy recycled build materials.
If you’re renovating your home, consider buying your construction materials from stores that sell used or surplus materials. You’ll find a listing here at Habitat for Humanity. Items include plumbing fixtures, windows, doors, tiles, electrical fixtures, and even kitchen fixtures like counters and cabinets. If the designs don’t appeal to you, check again in a week—the supplies change frequently, and you may have a completely different selection after a few days.
6. Kick the pack-rat mentality.
Landfill after landfill has overflowed with things that people ‘just grew tired of.’ We’re a consumer culture. We fall in love with a sofa in a store—which just happens to be on sale—bring it home and then haul our old one on the street. In fact, 9 out of 10 things in our attic or basement have probably been barely used. There’s the lamp we bought on impulse, and then realized was too big for our living room. Or the television that still works, but was replaced by a flat-screen or projector that we just had to have.
So before you go out and buy a new table, sofa, or whatever it is you feel is ‘worthless junk’ ask yourself: ‘Do I really need a new one?’ If it’s broken, call a furniture restorer or a local carpenter. In many cases, you’ll be able to get it back to mint condition. If you just need a change, look for ideas on how to refurbish it on decorating or DIY websites.
If you really, really need to do a furniture or a technology upgrade, follow a ‘one-in/one-out policy.’ Find a new home for your old item, whether by donating it to charity organization who’ll find a family that really needs it, or selling it to a friend for a rock-bottom price.
7. Look for items made from eco-friendly materials.
Buy items made from organic, sustainable materials. Many of these items are sourced from responsible manufacturers. For example, some furniture producers have a policy of using part of their profits for replanting. Others use upholstery made from 100% biodegradable fabrics.
Some stores, like modernecohomes.com also feature environmentally-friendly tableware and bed linens, office furniture, and design accents. You don’t have to worry about tacky designs other. Many of these websites, including inmod.com, have very modern designs that will satisfy even the most sophisticated tastes. (The photo used in this article features the ultra-stylish “Padma’s Plantation” collection.)