I have a passion for transforming trash into treasure— for repurposing potential throw-aways into absolute blow-aways.
My family mocks me mercilessly about this.
In fact, my nephews’ effort to humiliate me for saving cat food cans knows no bounds. They love to remind me of the empty Sweet ‘n Low packets I’ve collected—the sales receipts I’ve saved.
They allege I’ve crossed the line—stepped off the edge separating the safe side of sanity from the abyss that is crazy-ass-receipt-saving-cat-food-can-recycling by strangely aging aunts. (And regular readers of my blog will be well-aware that sanity’s not my strong suit.)
But, morphing junk into joy can be tons of fun—and a whole lot less crazy than my nephews might imagine.
So, last month, with the help of Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, I took on a new and totally sane recycling project.
What I found at my local ReStore could be transformed from something ordinary into something else entirely extraordinary. That much, I was convinced of.
In August I visited the ReStore here in Lexington, Kentucky, where I found the table below on sale for a mere ten dollars.
Clearly, the piece was mid-century modern, a style whose sleek lines are popular again today, but this table literally looked like something left over from 50 years ago. It was chipped, worn, unwanted.
However, one week later, with a little effort and imagination, the table has been transformed into this.
How did I do it? Can you do it, as well?
Absolutely, you can. And absolutely, you must—if you don’t want to miss out on a coffee-table treasure of your very own.
Here’s how I did it—and how you can, too.
1. Clean the surface with hot, soapy water.
2. Sand the top and legs.
3. Prime with a product like Kilz.
4. Lay out a design in pencil.
I used a yard stick to measure and assorted mixing bowls as circle templates.
5. Select areas to paint.
Use colors that will coordinate with the room where you’ll use the table.
And don’t forget the legs. I spray-painted mine black using a high gloss Rustoleum.
6. Select other areas to decoupage and search for images.
Use photos salvaged from recycled magazines or maps from an out-of-date atlas.
If you don’t already have a few back issues of National Geographic or old encyclopedias hanging around the house, you’ll find plenty of used books and magazines for sale at your local ReStore.
Remember to be imaginative. I’ve even been known to use labels from soup cans to create unexpected fun.
7. Cut the recycled images to your desired shape and size.
I placed tracing paper over the design I’d drawn onto the table top. I then outlined the shape of paper I needed to fill in a particular part of the design, cut out that shape from the tracing paper, and taped the cut out piece of tracing over the recycled image, before trimming around the edges.
8. Decoupage newly shaped papers over the areas you have not painted.
I recommend using a product like Mod Podge that you can purchase at your local craft store or even the closest Walmart.
First, brush the decoupage medium onto the surface of the table. Then place the image over the newly glued surface, pressing out any air bubbles, and apply another coat of Mod Podge over top to seal.
Repeat this process until all desired areas are covered with recycled images.
9. Detail edges.
You can use a permanent black marker and ruler to clean up and demarcate the lines between decoupaged and painted surfaces.
I also used a black and white checker board Duct Tape to create a border for my table. I cut the tape to the width I needed using an Exacto knife and yard stick.
10. Apply several coats of polyurethane to the entire table surface.
This seals and protects both the painted areas and the decoupaged images. I used an oil-based polyurethane, but a water-based Minwax polycrylic product would work just as well and dry even more quickly.
This is what it looks like in the end.
Pretty cool, isn’t it? And not at all crazy!
So what kinds of things have you recycled? Have your efforts been successful? Or would recycling be just one more thing you’d have to think about. Come on, please share. I promise I won’t tell. I swear on an empty cat food can, I won’t.
Another version of this piece will be posted on Habitat for Humanity’s blog launched later this fall.