A Fresh Look | July 19, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - July 19, 2013

A Fresh Look

Use less stuff

by Kit Davey

I just love knowing that my decorating style helps fight waste and conserves resources. If you're a frugal decorator you're helping to save our environment, too.

When you buy a table at a garage sale instead of brand new, or repair rather than replace a ripped tablecloth, or use a jar as a vase instead of tossing it in the trash, you are making a difference. Try some of these environmentally friendly ways to decorate your home on a budget.

Alternatives to buying new

It does take a little more time and energy, but you can furnish your home without ever setting foot in a new furniture store. Shopping at garage sales and flea markets saves you money and allows you to enjoy the weather and meet interesting people. Antique shops offer unique furnishings with a past, often for less than new pieces at retail shops. High-end furnishings from redecorated homes and designers can be found in consignment shops.

Trading is one way I have obtained accessories for my home. I have a yearly art party during which I trade art I've grown tired of for creations made by my artist friends. You can also hold knick-knack swap parties. Everyone brings a bag of white elephants, puts them on a big table, and then takes turns selecting stuff to take home. Any left-overs get donated to charity.

Try borrowing furnishings. I was looking for the perfect painting to hang over the mantel. My kind parents "loaned" me a piece I had often admired in their home. I no longer had space for a chair in my den, and I am "loaning" it indefinitely to my brother.

Sharing makes sense. Our neighbors went in together on a chipper/shredder and a leaf blower. Could you share a punch bowl, pasta maker or extension ladder with a friend? Most of us have overflowing bookcases, so why not trade books or share a magazine subscription with a friend and start using the library?

Every year Santa Clara has a mega-pick-up day during which residents are allowed to put out trash equivalent to 12 32-gallon cans. I'm not ashamed to say I spend a lot of time cruising the street the day before these pickups scrounging for cast offs. I have found tables, dress forms, leather-bound books, dishes, etc., which I have diverted from the landfill and which are now treasured possessions in my home. (I don't know how the garbage company feels about this, and I ask the homeowner if I can take things before I fill my trunk).

Most of us have more than enough stuff and it's just a question of fixing up what we have or using it in a new way. I never liked the color of my refrigerator, but it didn't make sense to buy a new one, so I painted it red. (Yes, red). Look for alternatives; if you need a new end table try using a stack of coffee-table books or leather suitcases, a sand-filled flower pot with a glass on top, or a wooden box covered with fabric.

Use things from nature. River rocks can be used as bookends or doorstops, a tree stump as an end table or footstool, shells can be displayed in a bowl. Line up a row of red pears on your mantel.

If you maintain what you have, it will last longer, delaying its replacement.

Reduce waste: Re-use and recycle

If you have things accumulating in your home that you need to get rid of, please don't throw them in the trash! Hold a garage sale or get a booth at the flea market. Call a local charity and have them pick it up, or give it away to a family member.

I have had luck giving things away by hauling them out on the curb marked with a "Free! Please Take!" sign. A toilet, boards from a fence, pots, picture frames, etc., have all quickly found new homes.

Give tired furniture a new function. An old dresser can become storage in the garage. A worn table can be used out in the yard as a potting station or for plant display. Paint a tippy chair, and put it in a corner with a plant on it.

"Trash" can be used in countless ways. Use the funny papers or grocery bags adorned with leaf rubbings as wrapping paper. Use margarine containers to mix paint or for leftovers. Broken plates can be used in mosaic projects. Use old fabric-softener sheets to clean your TV screen and mirrors. Shoulder pads from blouses can be use to apply stain or to wax your car. The cardboard from pads of paper can be cut up and used to back picture frames. Old panty hose can tie up tree branches in the garden. Cut up greeting cards and re-use them as post cards, or to frame. Read "The Tightwad Gazette" (Villard Books), a book by Amy Dacyczyn, which "promotes thrift as a viable lifestyle" for fun and bizarre recycling ideas.

Kit Davey, Allied Member, ASID, specializes in re-design, staging, design consulting and professional organizing. Email her at KitDavey@aol.com, call her at 650-367-7370, or visit her website at www.AFreshLook.net.


There are no comments yet for this post

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Choose a category: *

Since this is the first comment on this story a new topic will also be started in Town Square! Please choose a category that best describes this story.

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields


One more week to vote!

Don't forget to cast your ballot online. Voting ends May 29th. Stay tuned for the results in the July 21st issue of the Palo Alto Weekly.