Recycle Furniture Into Something You Can Use

Got an old piece of furniture you no longer use? Recycle it into something else.

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I'm a big believer in recycling. I like the idea that the metal can I'm using today might be transformed into part of the car I'm purchasing a few months from now. The plastic juice bottle that I recycled yesterday might be made into a fleece jacket that will keep me warm next winter. When it comes to recycling, the possibilities are really endless.

Recycling allows materials to be used again in new and different ways. My cohost, Shari Hiller, and I have found that recycling can also be a very useful tool in decorating.

We all know that home decorating can be very costly. Recycled furniture can help defray some of the costs, while serving a useful purpose in another area of the home.

Shari and I recently redecorated a dining room. The homeowners had purchased new furniture and were planning to get rid of their old dining-room set. Shari and I had other ideas.

We noticed that the homeowner's entry hall looked a bit bare. We helped them decorate two rooms for the price of one by recycling the old dining-room buffet cabinet into a mail station.

In decorating, it's important to consider both form and function. This mail station met both requirements. First, it created a focal point in the otherwise plain entry hall. Second, it provided much-needed storage space for this busy family.

An entry-hall mail station makes sense. Mailboxes are usually set by the front door, so having an organizational area nearby can help with efficient mail management.

If you'd like to create a mail station for your home, a cabinet with closed storage areas works best. The buffet cabinet we used had several shelves hidden by two doors.

Organization is important if you want your mail station to function well. I don't know about you, but most of the mail I get seems to be junk mail, so the first item we purchased for our mail station was a small wastepaper basket that could easily fit in the buffet.

Next, we found a decorative mail sorter to help organize bills and other important correspondence. Supplies, including pens, paper, envelopes, stamps and address labels, were stored in wire baskets that were hidden from view when the cabinet doors were closed. A long plastic storage box was used to hold mailing paper, tape and scissors.

Like many families, our homeowners subscribed to many magazines, but often found themselves too busy to read them when they first arrive. The magazines found a perfect home in the mail station. This way, messy clutter was eliminated.

Shari felt the mail station was also the perfect place to organize and store greeting cards. She purchased a three-ring binder with 12 pocket dividers.

Our homeowner made a list of special occasions (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) for each month and placed it in the divider. By checking the binder at the beginning of each month, she would know exactly what cards she needed to send.

This system worked especially well because our homeowner was the kind of person who stocks up on greeting cards. When she found that perfect card, she filed it away in the binder. When the special day arrived, she had no trouble finding the card, and because her mail station was so well-organized, she had all the necessary supplies to get it into the mail on time.

The recycled buffet cabinet certainly worked well as a mail center, but to become a beautiful focal point in the entry hall, it needed accessorizing. The buffet was placed in front of a large window. The window topper provided color to the space, so we decided to add two tall table lamps with decorative shades, in addition to several small decorative items that could be changed with the season.

I think this mail center was a great idea. It provided storage and organization to a source of constant clutter. It turned a bland entry hall into a warm welcoming space. And best of all, it was practically free. That's recycling at its best.

(Matt Fox and Shari Hiller alternate writing this column. They also are authors of Real Decorating for Real People and co-hosts of the Home & Garden Television show Room By Room.

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