Reuse and update for Earth Day

According to the EPA, Americans generate about 12 million tons of furniture waste each year, about 80 percent of which ends up in landfills. With Earth Day just around the corner, it’s a great time to look for ways to reuse, recycle and upgrade furniture and decor.

Interior designers and other experts exchange views on how to look at older furniture and used items a little differently. It’s a good move for the environment, and with a little creativity, you can bring fun new aesthetic touches to your living spaces, too.

Real estate sales, antiques

These clean, crisp contemporary interior design elements that have been popular for well over a decade aren’t really going away any time soon; However, more homeowners are now open to transitional design concepts. This allows for classic or vintage touches in the home to warm up spaces with neutral color backgrounds and furniture and decorations that unite generations and styles.

Natasha Pace, the owner of Silver Lining Estate Sales, said estate sales are full of items that can be reused to freshen up a room in your home. When you buy and use something from an estate sale, you’re also extending the life of a piece that had a purpose for someone else in the past.

“It’s almost like someone walking out the door and giving you the keys to their life,” Pace said.

The property sales expert said people are often looking for unique or classic pieces of furniture, but also for everyday items like kitchen pots, pans, knife sets and cutlery and even tools. Some tools are sought for use, others also like them for home decoration.

“Some like to call them ‘Man-Tiques,’ where they use things like old carpentry tools, planes, routers and even ever-popular fishing tackle as accent pieces,” said Leslie Bell, owner of Silver Horse Antiques in Las Vegas.

Craftsmen are also frequent real estate sales, Pace said. “Some people buy old blankets and use them to cover a futon or other piece of furniture. All you really need is a stapler and you’re ready to reupholster something.

In the past, according to Pace, large antique wooden furniture was mostly considered unsaleable, but today older pieces are making a comeback. Shoppers are also younger and, in addition to the furniture, are also interested in CDs, VHS tapes and vinyl records as fun retro touches in the home.

Bell said French cottagecore furniture has always been in style, even in today’s modern homes. Its soft pastel, pink and blue tones blend well with all types of interiors, she added. Lots of vintage furniture is a great touch for small areas too.

“People might not want them for the whole house, but they might be looking for that Victorian or Asian vintage sofa or chair for their foyer because it’s eye-catching.”

She also said Las Vegas is a great place to find pieces of hotel furniture that are coming to the secondary market and can be reupholstered or otherwise remade. “Per capita, we probably have more used furniture in this city than in any other city in the nation,” she added.

Let your creativity take over your mind and body

Home design experts say there are no creative limits to rethinking used items in the home, regardless of their size and previous use. Kate Diaz is an interior designer and co-founder of Swanky Den, researching and recommending products for the home. She offers a few creative suggestions, such as:

Use an old door as the headboard for your bed.

Turn an old coffee table into an ottoman.

Simply use mason jars as vases for flowers.

Karen Aronian, founder of Aronian Education Design, which guides families on how to create spaces in the home that are fun and educational for kids, suggests:

Repurpose plastic salad containers to categorize and store small toys and art supplies.

Use outgrown children’s tables and desks as a base for aquariums and pet terrariums.

Reuse worn out sheets for picnics and for kids’ craft tarps.

“Another great use for an old bed sheet is as pet protection for beds and furniture. (It) keeps your duvet and pillows free of pet hair, dirt and their chew toys,” she said.

Stefan Bucur, co-founder of interior design website, doesn’t mind getting creative with newer pieces of furniture either. He described how to turn Ikea’s minimalist, modern four-cube storage piece, the Kallax, into a bar cart or coffee station.

“Add casters to the base to make it moveable. Reels with a gold accent will look amazing with the white or black storage piece,” he said. “Add door handles to the top of the unit… these can be used as handles to move the cart around and keep things on top from falling off. … Add a plant for a little greenery and some of your favorite decor pieces.”

Brad Holden, editor at Family Handyman, also suggests that “an old, unrepairable piano can be turned into a desk. Remove the keys, hammers and harp and add a work surface’, in addition to other handy, fun tips like:

With old kitchen cabinets in the garage.

Create a herb garden with soup cans.

Split an antique suitcase in half and add pillows for a pet bed.

Sometimes it’s the little details that can make the difference. Amy Stansfield, who covers interior design themes for, said that any piece of wood furniture can be updated with chalk paint for a “shabby chic” effect. Swapping out drawer handles and doorknobs on closets and tables is another way to refresh furniture, and she also said creating a gallery wall with older or unused items that match your personal style is a popular way to use what You have, or breathe new life into it something you can find at a thrift store.

Regardless of how you decide to honor Earth Day, remember that a little creativity not only gives our landfills a breather, but also keeps valuable dollars in your pocket.

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