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Repurposing now stylish

What many people consider junk, Peggy Jacob and Carol Perry see as possibilities. They can hardly bear to pass up an auction, an estate sale or sometimes even the curbside trash. To the two friends and business partners, those sources are treasure troves for their passion for repurposing. The two operate the Hoarders Quarters in Barberton, Ohio, where they sell the used and offprice goods they've gathered. Many of those things they just clean up for resale, but what gives them the most satisfaction is finding new uses for old stuff — turning the end of a daybed into a garden gate, for instance, or making a birdbath from parts of old lamps and ceiling lights.

"You just stand back and go, 'What use can I make out of this?' " Jacob said.

Reusing things is deeply rooted in our American DNA, but lately it's gained a new cachet. It's no longer just thrifty or even green to find creative reuses for salvage; now it's also stylish.

For Jacob, it's almost a compulsion. She sees a ladder and envisions a pot rack. She buys a TV armoire and imagines a puppet theater.

Perry admitted she was less of a visionary than her partner at first. Her motivation was just the thrill of the hunt. But when she turned some old bed parts into a bench, she knew she'd caught the repurposing bug.

Apparently consumers have caught the desire to own those items, too. Salvage chic is a big draw for customers of Hazel Tree Interiors, a West Akron, Ohio, business that encompasses home decor, picture framing and interior redesign, said Karen Starr, who owns the business with her husband, Jon Haidet.

Starr and Haidet sell items on consignment from a number of artists who specialize in repurposing — items such as a mirror made from a Firestone tractor tire mold by Russ Ensign, a 1960s end table decorated with a surfing scene by Teresa Bosko and a cocktail table made from gears, wheels and other steel parts by Michael McAlear.

Starr said she's seen a big increase in interest in recycled items over the last year, although she's not sure whether it's because people like the green aspect or they're just drawn to the look.

TV undoubtedly has fed the trend. Shows centering on salvage have proliferated on cable — American Pickers on the History Channel, Cash & Cari on HGTV and Picker Sisters on Lifetime, to name a few.

Repurposing tips

Salvage expert Amy Hughes offers these tips for finding and repurposing old stuff:

Steal other people's ideas. Look through design books, tear out magazine pictures, snap photos of projects you like.

Bring that inspirational material with you when you shop. It'll help you show sellers what you're looking for.

Dress to get dirty. Wear dark colors when you shop, and bring hand sanitizer.

Take measurements. Jot them in a notebook to take with you, so you'll know an item will fit.

Pack a field bag. Hughes recommends filling it with a tape measure, work gloves, a hammer to tap in popped nails and a flashlight for examining items closely. A smart phone is handy for taking and e-mailing photos, arranging deliveries and comparing prices on eBay.

Pick the brains of creative friends. You might post a picture of a find on Facebook and ask for ideas.

Shop with a buddy. Not only can your friend offer ideas, but you'll also get better deals by buying multiple items.

Remember that everything is negotiable, even in a store. Dealers expect you to bargain, but keep the conversation respectful. "If you negotiate down, you should buy it," Hughes said.

Look things over carefully before you buy. Things can be scratched or damaged after they're priced, so make sure you're getting what you're paying for.

Repurposing now stylish 11/02/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 4:30am]
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