Monday, February 1, 2010

Rescued from the dumpster...

my personal quest to save our planet one chair at a time...  

Each month I will bring to you one chair (maybe an occasional ottoman) that has been tossed aside and give it a new life.  These will be chairs I have found on their way to the dump, at a flea market, or in a thrift store, all for free or a very reasonable price.  I will present you with the before pictures and document the transformation on my blog.

Month: February, 2010
Found: Goodwill Costa Mesa
Price: $17.99

I loved this chair instantly... It has great button tufting on the back and seat. The small scale makes it ideal for the corner of a bedroom or as an accent chair in the living room.  The date on the bottom of the chair is 1975.  The finish is in decent shape with just a few scratches, although I think it would look great refinished darker, almost black.  While I love the pop of the orange upholstery, it is looking a bit worn and faded and has a few spots... I’m envisioning linen or mohair.  White linen will give it a crisp look, natural linen a softer more subtle effect, or mohair for a richer more textural look...hmm hard to choose.  I’d love to hear your ideas too! 

So it’s a fun project, but come on, how will this help save the planet...
Did you know that according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans produce approximately 4.6 lbs of trash per person every day.1  Imagine if you had to carry that around with you all day, and then tomorrow you would have 9.2 lbs to carry, the next day 13.8 lbs... you can see where I am going with this.  By the end of a week you wouldn’t be able to pay me to take another cup of coffee, shopping bag, or food wrapper, let alone a new chair if that meant carrying the old one around on my back for the rest of my life.  We are running out of space in our landfills, so in essence we are carrying all this trash around with us.  
On Friday, I attended The second annual Vanguard University Environmental Sustainability Conference and met some really passionate folks trying to spread the word about sustainable business practices and the power consumers have to influence business through ethical and well informed buying decisions.  As a resident of one of the most wasteful places on the entire earth,  (Yes, Orange County... we produce 6.7 lbs of trash per person per day, well above the national average!!)2 I left the conference with a renewed determination to present my clients with information, products, and sustainable solutions, that will allow them to make healthier and more sustainable choices for their homes, the planet, and all those who live on it.  My belief is that design should enhance our everyday experience, quality of life, and the way we interact with our environment.  

As we look at our homes here are some of the things we can do:
  • Use energy efficient building technologies to reduce the amount of energy required to run your home, and lower your energy bills in the process.
  • Introduce water conservation features such as xeriscaping, low flow shower heads, and on-demand water heaters to reduce your water intake.
  • Use low or no VOC paints and formaldehyde-free materials to keep harmful chemicals from entering your home and eventually the environment.
  • When selecting materials look for long-lasting and low maintenance, reducing how often they will need to be repaired or replaced.
  • Buy from local sources and artisans reducing the resources used for  packaging and transportation.
  • STOP buying low quality junk that ends up in the trash within days, weeks, or months of when we purchase it... I often find that waiting to find that one special piece, and then paying a little more for it, is both more satisfying and more economical than all the impulse purchases that deplete our bank accounts, leave us dissatisfied, and end up in the landfill.
RE-USE (My personal favorite of the 3Rs)
  • Incorporate previously used materials into your home.  There are a lot of great vintage and antique pieces that bring character to a space and look great juxtaposed with newer elements. 
  • Re-purpose items using them in a way other than their original intended use.  An industrial fixture from a closed factory could make a great table base, an antique dresser can become a vanity... the options are endless.
  • Look at the things that you already have and see if they really need to be replaced.  Sometimes re-finishing or re-upholstering a piece can give it a completely new look. 
  • Ditch the disposables and bring out your good dishes.  How much better would your morning coffee taste in fine china than in a paper to go cup?  Okay the taste might not be that different but the experience is incomparable.. and isn’t life all about experiences?
  • Use reclaimed and recycled materials whenever possible, they look great and provide a market for recycled goods.  Reclaimed wood flooring from old barns, furniture made from reclaimed wood, countertops made from recycled porcelain and paper, tiles made with recycled glass, recycled carpet, the choices get better everyday. 
  • Before sending things to the landfill ask yourself if they could be recycled...several carpet companies as part of the sale, will pick up your old carpet up to recycle it and make it into new carpet.


  1. Excellent post Maggie! Good reminders of choices we can make to reduce the waste we create in our homes and everyday lives.

  2. Nice chair. Makes me think of Garfield.

  3. I love your re-use of materials you've literally found on the street! Reclaimed wood floors aren't quite that simple, but do give new life to old barns and buildings. Just a note to suggest this as an option, from the blogger at Carlisle Wide Plank Floors.