A blog about the restoration, remodel and renovation of a 1929 Chicago-style brick bungalow


I sometimes hold onto things for a REALLY long time, not necessarily knowing why. Other times I’ll purge “stuff” with abandon, but it seems like we rarely need to throw something in the trash.

If it’s clothing or small household items, we’ll donate them to Amvets, Salvation Army, or Goodwill. If it contains metal, we’ll leave it out for one of the local “scrappers” who drive around the neighborhood before trash day. It’s usually picked up within a couple hours of leaving it by the trash.

Gently used furniture usually finds its way to Pete’s family cottage, where I like to say “furniture goes to die.” But sometimes, something from the cottage is reborn in our house, like a dresser (probably once belonging to his grandparents) which Pete uses, its matching vanity, which I use for a home office desk, or this awesome mid-century chair which I’ll eventually reupholster and which now sits in my studio space.

The area rug beneath it came from my apartment when I was single and living in Chicago. It’s well-worn and not valuable monetarily, however it’s valuable in providing some warmth over the hardwood floors, a place for the cat to stretch out, and in adding a finishing touch to the room. I bought it, along with a bunch of other things, for not much money from friends who were moving to Hawaii. I also sublet their apartment, which I loved and lived in until I moved in with Pete.

In others cases, something that began with one use becomes something else, like this counter-height work table. Those same Hawaii friends built it for the Chicago apartment over 20 years ago because the kitchen had absolutely no counter space. None.

Since it was freestanding, I decided to take it with me when I moved into our previous house and we used it in the laundry room (shown here). It was perfect for folding laundry and storing gardening supplies and other things.

And then when I was in grad school and the university was going to throw out a light box, we brought it home and installed it in the work table (seen at the far end) which I use from time-to-time in my design and illustration business.

When we moved to the bungalow, I moved the work table to my office space, and now that I moved my studio space to the remodeled attic, the work table has become my main storage for files and things.

I wanted to give it a fresh look, however, so first we stripped the varnish off the wood and then I painted it with a black semi-opaque satin stain/varnish combo. It’s made of plywood, so I wasn’t too concerned with the quality of the finish; I just wanted to update the look to match the rest of my decor.

The black finish looks great, but I also needed a way to hide all that crap. Using some curtains that I bought several years ago at IKEA and used in my old office space as a way to hide storage shelves in an open closet, I cut them down to size, sewed strips of velcro at the top, and instead of solid blue panels, I decided that the large grommets, intended for a curtain rod, would make a nice design element at the bottom of the panel.

I positioned the velcro strips so that I could completely obscure everything, or leave it partially open to reveal some colorful boxes.

Repurposing something, to me, is much more satisfying than buying something new because it looks and feels like something new without spending the money. Sometimes it takes a little elbow grease or hard work to make it into something new, but other times just using a piece in a different way makes it brand new, like our vanity-turned-home-office-desk. If you think beyond what the piece is, or was, and instead think about how it can be utilized, it may turn into something completely different.

How about you? Do you have any great repurposed pieces?

1 Comment

  1. Karen Anne on July 30, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    I’m really pleased with myself for changing my late Mom’s curtains. I like to keep her things (I live in her/now my house), but we have different tastes. The curtains were full window curtains, tied back, ruffly with those little ball things for trim. I cut them down to simple cafe curtains, no trim. So they’re still hers, but mine too, and more light gets into the bathroom, saying electricity.

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