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How to Repurpose Just About Anything

Think Outside the Box, Bookcase or Bureau

One of the many benefits of hiring an interior designer is that they have personal connections with vendors of unique, high-quality furniture and accessories. Having a pro source your collection is an ace in the hole when you’re furnishing an entire house, or even just a room. But, there is an undeniable thrill when you find an offbeat, funky piece or that novel one-of-a-kind item you never realized you needed until you stumbled across it one fateful day at an estate sale.

Do you live to scour thrift stores and antique shops? Have you ever found a treasure through dumb luck? Maybe you have family heirlooms you’re sentimentally attached to keeping. It doesn’t matter how or why you’ve come to own any one piece of furniture or oversized decorative accent you cherish. No matter how you found it, you need to figure out how to successfully incorporate it into your home. Sometimes that simply means proper placement, but we’d be remiss not to suggest you think a bit more outside the box. A repurposed piece can be the personal detail that sets your home apart.

Look At Your Space Through A Designer’s Eyes

How do designers always seem to tie a space together, no matter how eclectic the contents? Well, for starters they know whether to turn ‘must-stay’ pieces into the focal point of a space or to design around them. And when they hit the shops in search of something new, they go armed with the right measurements for each space.

A designer’s eye always sees the possibilities beneath the reality. Not only can they help perfectly arrange items in your home, they can see all the ways your furniture – and even actual whole rooms  – can be repurposed.

What can you learn from their process? A whole lot.

“Perfect” is Boring And Broken Can Be Beautiful

Let your creativity flow, and trash any notion of perfection.

If you find a piece you’re drawn to (and the price is too good to pass up), don’t skip buying it just because it might not be a perfect match with the rest of your furniture or because it was somehow altered along the way. Let each piece be a little wonky. There’s true beauty in originality and imperfection.

This may be a slightly strange concept in America’s modern disposable society. Many of us are conditioned to simply replace an item instead of repairing it. But it hasn’t always been this way, and in many cultures it still isn’t. Are you familiar with the Japanese concept of Kintsukuroi? It translates “to repair with gold.” When pottery is broken, the cracks are filled with gold. The piece is considered more beautiful for having a unique, and resilient, history. Can you relate? Some of our favorite pieces are ones that have a story.

Build To Last: Why Old-Fashion Craftsmanship Will Never Go Out Of Style

A simple but priceless thing about older furniture is that chances are – no matter how beat up it is – it’s built to last.

Cliches exist for a reason, and the old saying “they just don’t make ‘em like they use to” applies when it comes to furniture. Do you have an old dresser or table around? Check it out for yourself. Look for thick wood, joined back panels and basic construction methods. What kind of joints are used to hold the piece together? If you have dovetail drawers you are in luck – you own a sturdy piece that will last generations. Woodworking is a true craft, and at one time it was the only option around.

When the Purpose and the Piece Don’t Match, Tweak Them Until They Do

Have you considered removing all the drawers from a dresser to completely reinvent its purpose? Or imagined an old door as a table? What about incorporating pieces that give your place a local feel, or an anchor to a place. Like a wagon wheel chandelier on a ranch or a lobster trap coffee table in a beach house? Old church pews make great benches. Reimagining everyday items gives your home an eclectic, personal feel.

Who says you have to limit yourself by using an item exactly how it was originally intended. You don’t even have to use a room as it was originally intended.

There’s Always Room(s) To Negotiate

Why keep the rooms in your home assigned to their traditional functions if those functions don’t fit your lifestyle? Who says you need a dining room table in the dining room? Or that you need to use a closet for a storage space? If you don’t need a closet, remove the door and turn it into a library nook. If 98% of the time you spend in the spare bedroom is done practicing yoga, why not trade in the extra mattress for open floor space and a personal altar? If you are still setting up your house based on some elusive cultural norm, stop. Your home should reflect and support your life, so repurpose it to fit you.

Let’s Give ‘Em Something To Talk About: What’s The Story Behind Your Favorite Piece?

Keep your imagination open, and ditch any fixed notions of how you think your home should look. Follow your eye, and your gut. It could be that the piece you weren’t sure why you needed acts as the catalyst for a whole home refresh.

One thing to watch for is clutter. Too much of a good thing is not indeed a good thing! Who wants to trip over too much stuff, or spend hours dusting chachkies? Sometime repurposing a space means clearing out stuff that no longer works, downsizing, and replacing cramped rooms with smaller pieces of furniture.

There are definitely guidelines, but there is no right or wrong. Make your home as original as you are. With a bit of imagination, some elbow grease, or a call to a professional carpenter, you can turn just about anything into a beautiful (and useful) part of your home. Plus, the bigger the transformation, the better the story.

Whether it’s an old grandfather clock that your actual grandfather restored or a funky accessory you stumbled upon on your honeymoon, people love telling (and hearing) the stories behind signature items. Think of refurbishing as an investment in an in-house cocktail party conversation starter.