5 Creative Reuse Ideas
Breathe new life into old things around your house with these alternate uses
One person's trash may very well be another person's treasure. But, with some creativity and a little DIY, you can keep the treasure for yourself. Make unique salvage finds a practical part of your everyday routine (with beautiful tub-feet bookends), or breath new life into old items destined for the trash heap (ladder plant stand, anyone?) Here are five of our favorite reuse ideas.
A rickety wooden ladder that's been gathering cobwebs in your basement may be unsafe to climb, but that doesn't mean you should kick it to the curb. With a fresh coat of paint in a cheery color, it becomes a space-efficient, budget-friendly display station for prized potted plants. If the ladder's spreaders—the horizontal braces that connect the ladder's rung-bearing base and fly sections—are missing or broken, lean the ladder against a vertical surface or stabilize it with two scrap pieces of 1x3 fastened where the spreaders would go. In any case, remember not to walk underneath your new creation—you wouldn't want to jinx your green thumb.
TOH Tip: Potted geraniums like these thrive in full sun and well-drained soil. Consider experimenting with climbers on your new plant stand as well.
Looking for something small and affordable at the salvage yard? Decorative iron tub supports can be found at most such shops—and are far easier to recycle than the heavy vessels that once perched upon them. A matching pair like these ornate tiger claws costs about $50. Put them to work as bookends on your desk or use just one to prop up magazines inside a shelving unit. To protect wood from scratches, stick felt cushions on the feet bottoms. Then put your own feet up and enjoy the ironwork's vintage charm.
TOH Tip: To preserve the iron's patina and seal any lead paint, add a coat of clear acrylic finish.
"We bought this 'summer front' at a farm auction for $110," says Kentucky homeowner Renay Davis, who had been looking at pricey basket-weave tile to protect the wall behind her cooktop. This Victorian-era cast-iron antique, once used to cover a fireplace during the off-season, is now a fancy focal point that saved the Davises more than $800 in materials. We like how it turns the kitchen into the true hearth of their home.
TOH Tip: The Davises coated the piece with tile sealer to make it easy to clean, then mounted it between the wall studs.
If TV's "Dog Whisperer" has taught us anything, it's that every pooch should be put in its place—a cozy place, that is. These cubbies-in-a-bookshelf are a clever alternative to pet beds that take up floor real estate. Built into a niche, the custom piece has a 24-inch-deep nook for Sam (left) and Benny, topped by narrower shelves for books and keepsakes. You can easily modify any bookcase that's at least 15 inches deep to accommodate your four-legged friend; just remove one or two of the bottom shelves. Don't forget to toss in a pillow for how it turns the kitchen into the true hearth of their home.
TOH Tip: Secure the modified bookcase to the wall so that it doesn't topple over when your dog or cat crawls in.
Replacing an outdated tile or stone backsplash can set you back a pretty penny.
For one that's easier on the wallet—and a cinch to revamp and clean—opt for wallpaper covered with ¼-inch tempered glass. Measure the backsplash area and cut out a cardboard template, marking the openings for electrical outlets. Bring the template to a glass fabricator so that they can cut a piece to size and polish the edges. After papering the wall, attach the glass by screwing down the outlet cover plates. Then run a bead of clear silicone sealant along the bottom and top edges and at the seams. Next time you update your kitchen, a new backsplash is just a quick switch of wallpaper away.
Antonina Vella Designs, about $63 per roll; York Wallcoverings
TOH Tip: A geometric pattern works here because the paper is wide enough to be hung horizontally—no need to match seams.