Reuse, Reduce…Redecorate!

DIY might not be everybody’s style (I don’t know why, but nothing quite intimidates me like a little needle and thread), but even girls like me who prefer to B-U-Y can still decorate their homes or apartments with earth-friendly and DIY-dorable decor and furniture. Pittsburgh is lucky enough to have two unique places to turn your pad into a green paradise!

Fresh Heirlooms, located just down the street from ModCloth in the quirky and artistic neighborhood of Lawrenceville, is in the business of turning your trash into a treasure. The cute and cozy store is cluttered with the typical gift store staples; but the wind chimes are made from nuts and bolts, the drinking glasses from used wine bottles, and the birdhouses from recycled plastic. If these green gifts aren’t made from materials salvaged from local landfills, then they’re the work of local or US artists, or they’re fair trade!

Fresh Heirlooms also holds art education workshops for children in the neighborhood, and for the adults offers workshops that you can schedule for a small group. A few Saturdays ago, eight of us took advantage of one of these workshops and decided to learn the art of screen-printing! Our mission was to create a grommeted wall hanging by screening an image (with non-toxic and earth-friendly paints, of course) on to recycled fabric.

The first step was simply choosing an image. They had the standard hearts and flowers available, but many people chose to draw their own image or print something from the web. Sari chose the Kiwi bird and Maggie made a collage of the word “Poem” to inspire her to write! Liz printed the word “RAWR” on an awesome animal print, and Molly delicately cut out a little daschund to make a print that would remind her of Keith Richards while she’s at work! As for me, I chose a walrus!

We then used our paints to screen the image or its reverse on to the recycled fabric. Finally, we grommeted the top of our fabric, and we had something personal and unique ready to hang in our homes or workplace! Simple as the process was, my walrus was sadly blob-ish and hardly recognizable, which is why I’m glad Fresh Heirlooms also allows those of us who may not be gifted artists or seamstresses to B-U-Y!


For the really ambitious DIY re-decorator (or, for the interested crafter), there is the non-profit retailor Construction Junction. Located in the Point Breeze area of Pittsburgh close to the vegan-friendly East End Food Co-Op and Free Ride Bicycle Shop, Construction Junction serves as a multi-purpose recycling center/construction supply warehouse. Their premise is simple – they encourage and accept donations of unwanted building material, taking just about everything associated with construction from freon appliances to scrap metal, bathtubs to stepping stones, countertops to wooden beams. Then, they showcase them in their quirky warehouse, arranged as if they were brand new, ready to be purchased and repurposed! It’s an artist’s dream, a designer’s inspiration, and a builder’s best friend.

Along with donations, Construction Junction offers the service of ‘Deconstruction.’ Their website states that they are “committed to environmental stewardship in waste prevention through the practice of reuse,” and in doing so, they provide an alternative to the wasteful practice of demolition by ‘deconstructing’ buildings.  A team of their staff members will come to a construction job site or remodeling project and remove items that they will then take back to the store and sell. Everything is up for grabs – cabinets, door frames, windows, trimming, hardwood floors, slate, shingles – they take it all.

One day last month, a few of us ModClothers headed to CJ (as it’s lovingly called) to scope out some bargains. Our photographer Danielle was looking for a door to complete a photoshoot and any other interesting piece of building material that caught her eye. I was just browsing, but I got totally caught up in daydreams about remodeling projects, crafty ideas, handmade presents, and uses for a dentist’s chair from the 1950s and old theater seating from the 1920s. I was totally smitten by a huge bucket of doorknobs and the never-ending boxes of ceramic tile.

As if the creative and constructive opportunities weren’t enough, CJ also has traditional recycling facilities perfect for those mornings you forget to set out your empty bottles or when you’re doing some serious spring cleaning and need to unload piles of recyclables. Among the stacks of deconstructed bricks and concrete, large dumpsters line the parking lot waiting to be filled with a myriad of recycled goods – paper, cardboard, plastics, glass, magazines, tin cans, junk mail, etc. You can drive up, drop off, and leave without ever entering the massive store. Buy why would you? You might just miss out on some serious treasures…!


Do you have a local repurposing retailer you love? A building supply store with some seriously green intentions? Let us know!


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1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Megan Ehrhart 05/08/2009 at 7:40 am #

    I’m sure not many of you venture out to St. Louis very often, but if you happen to be in the area, check out the City Museum. It’s not really a museum, except for the fact that everything inside is recycled from St. Louis warehouses and trash.

    It’s seven stories, with only three or four accessible, except for the seven story slide.

    It’s basically a playground for children and adults alike.

    This link leads to the photo tour of the City Museum.

    Honestly, though, if you are ever in Missouri, stop by St. Louis’s City Museum; you’ll have a blast.

    Just A Thought,

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