Reduce, Reuse, 'Upcycle': Giving a new purpose to old, unused items

2014-01-13T07:00:00Z 2014-01-15T17:58:08Z Reduce, Reuse, 'Upcycle': Giving a new purpose to old, unused itemsTrish Maley Times Correspondent
January 13, 2014 7:00 am  • 

Mandy Pappas of Crown Point has collected hundreds of wine corks and close to 40 yardsticks over the past two years. And she’s on the hunt for more items.

These materials aren’t for a craft project but for the home her family is building in the spring.

“It’s about adding elements to the house that are cost effective and adds character that you can’t get anywhere else,” said Pappas. “Plus, we’re reusing goods instead of cutting down more trees.”

Pappas is working with her builder and various tradesmen to reuse materials such as wine corks for a backsplash and trim in the bar area, abandoned barn doors for pocket doors, old-school yardsticks for her kitchen table, antique buffet tables for bathroom sinks and barn wood for raised panel wainscoting along her walls and staircases.

“In the beginning I just wanted decorative, recycled pieces that showcased my style. But then as I went on I started to take things to the next level, and I keep finding and adding things. In the end, the house will probably be made of about 30 percent recycled material,” said Pappas, owner of On the Square Emporium in Crown Point.

Like Pappas, Amy Stanley of Valparaiso sees trash, abandoned material and garage sales items differently.

“When I was young I started going to garage sales with my mom. I was always looking for treasures and loved it. My parents would always find something and then tell me stories behind the finds that we had. I really enjoyed those stories — learning what the object was and the history it had,” Stanley said.

Stanley, a mother of two, upcycles furniture and décor items from reclaimed materials such as fences, barn wood, license plates, albums, bottle caps and corrugated steel. She has made dust pans and décor items out of license plates and bowls out of old albums.

This is a hobby Stanley grew up sharing with her dad but gets inspiration from the items or ideas her family and friends share with her. Recently, Stanley started selling her projects at On the Square Emporium and at Hunt and Gather events at the Lake County Fair Grounds.

“My friends will bring me stuff they found or set aside for me in a drawer,” Stanley said. “I think there is a use for anything. If I see something going to waste I will pick it up and will use it. If it has holes in it – great, it has character. Growing up my mom gave me the eye to see something where it could be something else.”

There is a method to Stanley’s trial-and-error creative process.

First, she gets inspired. Second, she scribbles out her idea on paper. Then she collects the materials she considers using for the project. Next, she graphs it out to figure out the dimensions. Finally she gets to work.

“I organize all of it before I start but then you have to see how it works. It’s a lot of trial and error. And over the years I’ve learned to keep notes, keep templates, take pictures, etc. for the next project,” Stanley said.

Cassie Boehlke of Kouts said she agreed that trial and error is a big part of upcycling, but the process suites her as she enjoys trying new creative outlets.

“I work at Purdue University North Central and truly love my career, but enjoy working with my hands in my spare time. Refinishing furniture and hand crafting unique décor are creative outlets for me to do just that,” Boehlke said.

Boehlke and her sister Sami Chester of Valparaiso have worked together to also turn their hobby of repurposing materials such as pallets, doors, brooms and chicken coup wire into a business called More Than Before Décor. They rent a booth at Yesterday's Treasures Antique Mall in Chesterton and also take custom orders.

“The main reason I like to repurpose and reuse things, from materials all the way to whole pieces I work on, is that I feel we throw too much away in favor of shiny new things when we could instead take older things and make them shiny and just as good as new,” Boehlke said.

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