Digital Age Journalism & Social Media Anthropology

Transforming Trash Into Treasures

The day before bulk garbage collection was heaven. Visiting my grandmother’s basement was like going to my own antique store. Looking for new thrift stores was an ongoing adventure.

So began my love affair with old furniture and furnishings, transforming them from trash into treasures. It lasted for several years, became a business and a system for the (re)use and (re)decoration of wood, metal and other materials.

Sidewalk finds, hand-me-downs, client commissions, were all considered trash that could be turned into treasures. Furniture that was neglected, considered ugly and worthless was saved from the garbage dump.

Dark mahogany wood, once in fashion, painted pea soup green when out of style, was transformed into colorful collectibles. The 5 Step Decorative Painting System was born out of transforming these orphans into debutantes. The results would often bring tears to the eyes of the recipient of each make over.

Household furnishings made of wood, metal and glass, unearthed from thrift stores throughout the area, became ‘Recycled with Love’ Collectables. Designs and patterns with names like Buttercup, Deco Style, African Violets, Crazy Pot, etc. covered aluminum, steel, and copper pots, wooden bread boxes, napkin holders, paper towel holders, glasses, vases, and all sorts of bric-a-brac.

The results of my love affair with furniture and the system I developed were shown in magazines, House and Distinction, in newspapers, Newsday and the Herald Community News chain as well as on television, on Lifetime’s Our Home Show.

It was an exquisite time for me. I am still kept company by some of these treasures. Many homes are filled with them as well. Hundreds of transformations are documented. They are either slides, before and after photos, and YouTube videos. Copies of the print materials are safely filed away.

A myriad of paintbrushes still decorate a shelf in colorful containers. The paints are long gone. They have less of a shelf life than the brushes. Once in a while, I will eye a piece of furniture, check its lines, its construction, the quality and condition of the wood. Pieces speak to me. That is why I painted them and not blank canvases.

I still check dresser drawers to see if their joinery is dovetailed or just glued and nailed together. I no longer have a business doing decorative painting but the love of it runs through my veins. On occasion, my heart leaps when I see a particular piece or a well executed design.

It all lives on as part of Alison*s Heirloom Projects. There it is stored and saved, to be brought from the past into the present for future safekeeping.

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