April 29, 2013


Rhonda Konowalow Angell, editor of the DesignologyLA blog and owner of RK Texture Interior Design.


A couple of years ago, I attended an Earth Day lecture on, what else, green design. While I’ve always been a major recycler and energy conservationist, I hadn’t really focused on using green products in my work as an interior designer. This lecture changed the course of my career. I became so fascinated by what I’d learned, that I’ve continued doing my own research on the subject so I can bring more eco-friendly options to my clients.

Green, or eco-friendly design, is not only necessary to conserve our dwindling resources and lessen the impact on overstuffed landfills, but it can also add great character to our living spaces and work environments. Today, I am pleased to share some of my favorite ideas with you!

RECYCLE VS. UPCYCLE: Is there a difference? Yes! Recycling is altering or adapting items that would otherwise be disposed of in order to make new items (e.g. converting plastic bottles to make synthetic fiber for carpeting). Upcycling, on the other hand, means taking an item that is no longer needed and  using it in a new way (e.g. using empty plastic bottles as planters).

Make no mistake; while I wholeheartedly encourage recycling, we still utilize precious resources to produce the new item (e.g. water and electricity to run the plant, oil and gas for transportation, etc). With upcycling, the item never leaves your possession. You just find a new and creative way to use it.

Today, I will be offering an array of simple projects to get you started as well as some inspiration if you’re planning a renovation. Once you get the hang of it, I know the ideas will flow easily and you’ll have so much fun finding ways to put your used items to good, new use. Not only that, you can feel good knowing you created a unique design element yourself. So, read on and get ready to look at your old stuff in a whole new way!

Turn old silverware and metal objects into beautiful wind chimes! CLICK to enlarge image.WHIMSICAL WIND CHIMES: Do you have any old or mismatched silverware in your drawer (or garage or basement)? Drill some small holes in the handles and attach a fishing wire or thin picture hanging wire to each piece. Hang from a reclaimed piece of wood or wrap on a fallen branch. Voila: wind chimes!

Feeling ambitious? Let your imagination run wild! Keep it simple using only silverware or add a little “bling” with small beads. Use larger utensils, bicycle wheel rims or other found metal objects to hang the pieces from.

Light up the night with a hanging light kit and an old mason jar. CLICK to enlarge image.BRIGHT LIGHT: Have an empty Mason jar, wine bottle or olive oil decanter? Then you have (almost) everything you need to make a pendant light, chandelier or sconce light. Grab a wiring kit (check your local Lowe’s, Home Depot or CLICK HERE to order from Amazon) and you’re ready to create!

Start with a simple Mason jar lamp. CLICK HERE for project instructions. Once you’ve mastered that, the bright ideas are almost limitless.

If your lighting project requires cutting the glass bottles or jars you want to use, visit your local craft store to buy an inexpensive glass cutting kit or CLICK HERE to order on from Amazon for about $20.

An old dresser can be turned into your new bathroom vanity! CLICK to enlarge image.OH, THE VANITY: Turn an old dresser into a beautiful, functional bathroom vanity. Perfect for a single or double sinks, undermount or vessel styles. I love the options shown here. Especially the sink that is installed to one side, leaving plenty of room for your other bathroom necessities.

Yes, that's an old piano turned into a book case! CLICK to enlarge image.READ BETWEEN THE LINES: How about this ingenious bookcase idea? Okay, so what are the odds you have an old piano lying around? Just wanted to show you that there is no limit to what you can upcycle.

A beautiful old door becomes a stunning coffee table. CLICK to enlarge image.WHEN ONE DOOR CLOSES: Give an old, discarded door new life as a coffee table. The gorgeous architectural details add such interest in this room. You can also make a one-of-a-kind mirror or chalkboard! CLICK HERE to find out how to do it!

If you don’t have any doors lying around, they’re easy (and inexpensive) to pick up at your local thrift or architectural salvage store. Use as is, or strip and refinish to fit your decor.

Scrap wood pallets can be turned into beautiful and functional decor! CLICK to enlarge image.PALLET, SCHMALLET: You know those really unattractive pallets that are used to transport large items? How about these ideas? A simple “where to get wood pallets” in your search engine should uncover local results for you. As a matter of fact, I was at Lowe’s yesterday and it turns out they sell them, cheap!

Some cautions about pallets: if using outside, be sure to treat for the weather. There are some concerns about indoor use, as pallets are made from cheap wood. Some have been treated with formaldehyde, a chemical you don’t want to bring into your home! Remember, if pallets were used outdoors,  you may inadvertently bring a critter’s home into your home. So, if you decide to use pallets, do your research and know your sources.

SALVAGE YOUR RE-MODEL: Getting ready to renovate? You can use reclaimed windows (you may have to replace the glass for energy efficiency), old sinks, door knobs, cabinet pulls, light fixtures and even architectural elements such as pillars and stair railings in your re-model. The list is endless. Trust me, when you hit the salvage store, you will no doubt be drooling over all the possibilities. Be forewarned: it’ll be a mishmash of stuff, probably not too organized and perhaps a little musty. But go in with your eyes peeled and your mind open and I know you will find treasures perfect for your project.

Combine the old with the new. This re-model project incorporates a custom countertop made from recycled glass. CLICK to enlarge image.RECYCLED GLASS: There are many companies producing recycled glass tile products, from high-end lines like Ann Sacks (available through your design professional) to more affordable options at retailers like Home Depot. You can easily incorporate this versatile product into your remodel project. From floors to backsplashes to countertops, recycled glass will add color and shine to your space.

In this powder room (image above), a project I worked on, we incorporated a custom countertop made from a recycled glass product. You can’t beat the combo: eco-friendly and stunning.

Reclaimed wood is versatile and beautiful. CLICK to enlarge image.

RECLAIMED WOOD: Salvaged wood products are everywhere; from that great organically-shaped table to reclaimed wall cladding. Not only is it gorgeous, but it’s also eco-friendly. Instead of letting it go to waste, consider bringing this beautiful design element into your home. Even if your taste doesn’t tend to the rustic, adding a key piece of reclaimed wood can enhance almost any room and add inviting ambiance.

Think cork is only good for wine bottles and bulletin boards? Think again! CLICK to enlarge image.PUT A CORK IN IT: If you’ve never considered cork as a material for your flooring, then allow me to be the first to introduce you to this incredible, sustainable product. Cork is harvested from the bark of the cork oak tree, found in the Mediterranean. One great aspect to this product is that the trees do not have to be cut down to be harvested. The bark grows back every three years.

Cork is naturally flame-retardant, has anti-microbial properties and is a natural insect repellent. It can be finished with a variety of paints and stains, making it suitable for just about any design preference. Depending on quality, it can last from 10-30 years.

For even more eco-friendly tips and ideas, CLICK HERE to visit my blog.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: After discovering her destiny was not fulfilled working in Corporate America, Rhonda Konowalow Angell went back to school to study her first love: interior design. She lives in Los Angeles and strives to give her clients the gift of their dream home. CLICK HERE to check out her company, RK TEXTURE INTERIOR DESIGN. Not in Los Angeles? You can still benefit from Rhonda’s design expertise. She recently launched INSIDE HELP: the new way to interior design. INSIDE HELP is a unique solution for the do-it-yourselfer who wants the magazine look without the magazine prices. It’s online design with a personal twist. Rhonda has also used her keen eye for great design to create a  successful line of custom-made jewelry. She designs and crafts one-of-a-kind pieces using real leaves preserved in gold and other metals, as well as semi-precious stones. CLICK HERE to visit SHE SHE ARTISAN JEWELRY. You can also follow Rhonda on Facebook and check out DESIGNOLOGY LA, her blog.

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CLICK to visit She She Artisan Jewelry.