Reinventing the Old: Repurpose & Reuse Design Ideas

By Bobbie McGrath, ASP, IAHSP, Owner, Successful Staging

As a home stager, I keep an eye on current trends in construction and design incorporating them into the final staging plan.

Sometimes my recommendation is as simple as a new paint color or different light fixtures. Other times new kitchen cabinets or a complete bathroom remodel are part of the plan. Through it all, I have developed an eye toward creating a place someone would want to call β€œhome.”

The latest trend in homebuilding and home decorating lies within the recycle/reuse and green building movement that has taken firm hold all across America.

It seems to be a reflection of our times as people look to simplify their lives, protect the environment and stretch the almighty dollar. As a result, softly worn finishes and hand-hewn details are finding themselves throughout our homes. Whether you want to experiment with a few accents or dive right into a complete room remodel, there are a few key things to keep in mind when bringing the reclaimed movement into your home:

  • Raiding your grandma’s attic is now a chic way to spend your weekend.
  • Shopping for old or damaged items at tag sales, flea markets and your home furnishing stores can save tons of money.
  • DIY sites are your friend!

You are not contributing to overflowing landfills.This trend is the perfect opportunity to let your creativity out to play! Take a second look at that old dresser in your attic. With a few changes perhaps it could become a bench or even a TV stand. Pallet furniture is a great example of reimagining the possibilities. Don’t be afraid to deconstruct an old piece of furniture and breathe new life into it. Pinterest is a great resource for ideas!

Reclaim Your (Grandma’s) Furniture

This is where the reclaim/recycle/reuse/repurpose trend has really taken the world by storm! β€œAll that is old is new again!” has never been truer. It seems as if everyone is taking a second look at their furniture asking themselves, β€œWhat if I built a bookshelf out of plumbing pipes?” β€œWhat if we sawed the legs off that old table and made a coffee table out of it?” The possibilities are limited only by your own ingenuity.

Repurposed furniture - Mckibben HouseShelley Baker, owner of McKibben House in Clayton, NC, opened her doors to share her love of bringing new life to furnishings that have been β€œwell loved” through the years. In her words, β€œReusing/recycling furniture is re-loving the furniture. Much of the furniture we have has been inherited one way or the other and it doesn’t fit into today’s casual living world. Paint provides the freedom and flexibility to create whatever style you want!” Her passion is contagious as she explains all of the possibilities: milk paint, chalk paint, and gel stain to name just a few of the products and techniques featured at McKibben House.

Reclaim Your Floors

Always a favorite, hardwood floors are still number one thanks to their beauty and durability. Darker stains (such as Jacobean and ebony) have taken center stage because they complement both the softness of the time worn details as well as the bright energetic colors found throughout this trend. What I appreciate about the darker stains is that they are more forgiving when working with older floors that have developed a, shall we say, β€œpatina” through the years. Gray stains are starting to catch on too. I believe they will gain popularity as more people see them in place. Either way, I recommend using a matte water-based stain as they dry more quickly, don’t yellow over time and don’t have the dangerous fumes of their oil based counterparts.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the gorgeous reclaimed floors available today. You might be surprised at the variety of exotic woods you’ll discover. Whether gathered from an old schoolhouse, tobacco barn or factory the imperfections of these floors make them one of a kind. I’ve seen them sanded and stained but the hand-hewn finish is everyone’s darling. Its texture and finish make it very easy to live with, especially if you have pets!

Keep in mind, one of the most renewable, beautiful and durable floors favored by green builders is not even wood but a fast growing grass…bamboo! Easily produced, accessible and easy to maintain, bamboo has shown itself to be a wise choice. Take a look sometime. You may just fall in love!

Reclaim Your Cabinets

Shaker style and other clean line cabinets are enjoying their time in the sun. Unfortunately, many of us have cabinets with the arched recessed panels or some other detail that puts a time stamp on them.Β  While you could order a whole new set of cabinets, Baker suggests a list of options that might have you considering this facelift soon:

  • Simple Refinishing: Remove hardware and paint cabinets (8-12% of full replacement cost).
  • Refinishing Deluxe: Remove hardware, paint existing cabinets, upgrade to soft-close drawers, install new hardware, pull out drawers, etc. (20-25% of full replacement cost).
  • Refacing: Keep boxes, same upgrades as “Refinishing Deluxe” plus new door/drawer fronts (70-75% of full replacement cost).

How to Repurpose your FurnitureOf course you can take advantage of one of the many classes Baker offers and learn how to do the entire process yourself. If your cabinets are in good shape but need a facelift, you can do it yourself for a fraction of the cost to replace them. Baker has created a fun and informative series of classes for β€œDo-It-Yourselfers” so you can take on a project like this without costly rookie mistakes. Her enthusiasm for all things β€œwell loved” makes her an engaging natural teacher.

Reclaim Your Walls

Shiplap is where it’s at! Adding this rough hewn wood to an accent wall or an entire room, whether whitewashed or left natural, will transform your room in one fail swoop! Once relegated to building barns, sheds or cabins, shiplap has found its way into the hearts and homes of many who love its texture and warmth. Use it in an entry hall or kitchen for an instant update! Not ready for a commitment that big? Try building a one-of-a-kind headboard or coffee table. The important thing is to just do it!Β 

Paint is always a hot topic for discussion. Thanks to the time worn, grayed-out patina of reclaimed wood, shades of gray have become a welcome background to carry this trend forward. Keep in mind, it is very important to consider the color of your trim paint, cabinets, countertops and floor colors when selecting β€œyour” gray. If you have unpainted, dark wood trim you will want to avoid gray as it doesn’t transition well. Paint your trim white and THEN add your gray. Trust me on this one! You’ll thank me later. Two of my favorite paint choices are Sherwin Williams Passive (SW7064) and Accessible Beige (SW7036). Now, don’t think this trend is boring! Bright β€œshots of happy” such as turquoise, coral, yellow and acid orange provide a great foil to this otherwise calm palette. You can keep it simple with a monochromatic feel by exploring different shades of gray and beige, incorporating texture for a more sophisticated result. You can be playful and daring by adding the colors that make your heart sing. Life is short; it’s only paint!

It’s Time to Claim Your Own Style!

Whether we are driven by the need to save money, conserve our environment or exercise our creativity, this current trend allows us to claim our own sense of style while rediscovering forgotten treasures. Trends may come and trends may go. What we do know is that we have this occasion to discover what works best for us.

Want more repurpose and reuse design ideas? Check these out!



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