secondhand projectland

vintage framed latch-hooked sunset rug & garage projects

Once departed from the shores of pristine objects to sail the seas of used goods, one discovers that secondhand land abounds with projects. Because—let's face it—pre-owned furniture and décor has flaws: water spots, chipped veneer, dents, rips, broken or missing parts. These things, after all, have been used. They're old. Time isn't kind. (Ask any actress.)

You might have read the recent post about the Albini ottoman I did not find at the thrift store. Even at fair market price, my new-to-me designer cane footstool is missing some of its X-wraps around the horizontal pieces. But I choose to define that as character, rather than defect. As people age, physical flaws mount: crow's feet, varicose veins, spare tires, liver spots, male-pattern baldness. (Just look in the mirror.) So why should we expect anything less of vintage furnishings?

vintage Franco Albini ottoman with flaws (missing cross-wraps); upcycled pendant lamp

Of course, everyone has her own threshold for how many chips, nicks, stains, or dings can be tolerated in secondhand goods. Some people are fine living with major damage, while others can't stomach the barest scratch. Yet certain flaws in vintage pieces do need fixing for functionality or basic visual appeal. And so my friend Jeff has more projects stashed in my garage than he has time to work on, something Kurt at Sabi & Friends warned about before he got into the business—the dangers of stocking up on fix-its rather than ready-to-sell pieces. Yet there's something inherently satisfying about taking an object with a history and restoring or repurposing it into something that continues to function and give pleasure. So this post celebrates thrifty and chic DIY repurposing (not that I have time for it myself).

vintage gold-and-gray chevron-striped lamp with handles

:: DIY Hand-knit or Hand-sewn Pouf

Because poufs are, even if trendy, such multipurpose pieces for small spaces, functioning as footstools, end tables, and extra seating for guests, why not knit one? All you need is an old duvet for the stuffing (easy to find at Goodwill for around $20, even for goose down, and if stained, all the better), lots of thick yarn, rope, or twine, and broomstick-sized knitting needles. These textured poufs look especially chic in natural neutrals or bright colors like fuchsia, chartreuse, cobalt, or marigold. If you can knit (or teach yourself), this would save money and earn ego points over buying mass-produced.

Or if you sew, here are a couple make-it-yourself poufs for the machine: faux-Moroccan leather (linen) with contrast stitching or canvas with a touch of graphic paint.  

:: DIY Hand-knit Bath Mat

This thick, textural bathroom rug—the free pattern from Cocoknits—would be an easy and quick knitting project, if a bit hard on the hands, according to crafters on Ravelry. Old sheets cut or torn into strips become the yarn. This would be a perfect reuse for thrift-store or hand-me-down sheets (items I tend not to buy secondhand myself, considering all the things people do in bed). After scanning the Ravelry project pictures, I'd recommend skipping the fringe and choosing a medium neutral like bronze or gray or else a bright color, rather than prints or mix-and-match.

:: DIY Hanging Planters

Have some twine lying around? Short on table space? Hang up your plants! Gone are the days of thick, heavy macramé. Here's a site offering sleek, modern knotted-twine planter instructions, with similar examples available over at 3191 Miles Apart.

:: DIY Pendant Lamps

The pendant sitting on the ottoman above is a hand-thrown object of some kind (maybe originally a pendant?) that I found one day at Goodwill in the tchotchke aisle, envisioning it as a pendant. We found an IKEA light fixture the same day to fit inside but still need to figure out a way to secure the light to the pendant and hang it in a nonobtrusive way, a work-in-progress. But this modern pendant you can whip up at home from concrete and plastic soda bottles would give a similar effect.

:: DIY Latch-hook Art

While the framed latch-hooked sunset rug pictured above in blue, orange, yellow, and tan that Jeff and I found at the Teen Challenge Thrift store here in Portland is hip and groovy without being overly retro, you could, instead of brown owls or orange mushrooms, hook your own modern graphic print with thrifted or scrap yarns. (I'd choose wool over acrylic, myself.) See instructions here to get started. Or try hooking a painting using a free digital-image-to-pattern conversion. (It's up to you how kitschy you want to get.)

:: DIY Repurposed Coffee Table

Speaking of projects, the day of the Albini pouf, we did stop at a couple more free piles at the end of the day, and Jeff brought home a battered ammo trunk in need of a good scrub, deciding it would make someone a great coffee table and conversation piece with the addition of industrial casters and topped with a big piece of round bronze glass, which I just happen to have stored in my basement (long story).

Plus, the Albini ottoman had been priced as a set with a small, round glass tabletop I didn't want, which we'll repurpose as another table on top of—who knows?—maybe a free, polished cedar log or something else gleaned from a future free pile. (Long live Portland!)

Since nearly anything flat-topped can become a coffee table, try a big scrap piece of granite or marble on hairpin legs or an old crate or door on casters. Peruse Google images or Pinterest for ideas. Get creative. Be frugal. The old can be new again.

free-pile battered ammo trunk, Portland, Oregon

And while you're working on your next do-it-yourself home decorating project, you could even listen to podcast episodes of Destination DIY, an independent radio show locally produced here in Portland, Oregon. (I was actually present as a volunteer at the recording of the show about the Portland Fruit Tree Project.) Long live projects!

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