Making Treasures Out Of One Man’s Trash

Clever folks find project materials at Building Value reuse store

Cincinnati Enquirer – May 22, 2010

By Amy Howell Hirt

Over the past few years, the idea of using recycled materials – from clothing to flooring – has evolved from a second-hand necessity to the first choice for many consumers looking for unique, low-impact goods.

Building Value, a reuse store in Northside that stocks material from deconstructed or remodeled homes, has developed a bit of a cult following among crafty customers who have a knack for seeing things in a different way: how a light fixture could become a candle holder, how an old TV screen could become a window or how roughly worn wood cabinets could shine like diamonds with a little polishing.

“You have to be willing to look beyond what you’re seeing at the surface,” says Kathy Farfsing, who got a custom look in her laundry room by giving a facelift to used cabinets that cost about $30.

These resourceful shoppers make it look easy – and interesting – to give new purposes to old materials.

Haute headboard

Nancy Bilek of Milford likes old things. She is open about the fact that she misses her previous home, which was 200 years old, and wouldn’t mind someday moving on from her new home.

“I’m not using (salvaged material) to replace things in my house. I use it for stuff I can take with me,” Bilek says.

The accessory queen is a pro at simple projects that make items with single-digit price tags look like intentionally distressed luxury-brand pieces: She connected French doors with hinges to create a room divider and salvaged an unstable but well-loved cabinet by stabilizing it with a shelving system made of used cabinet doors.

“I’m a big believer in not using something for its original purpose,” Bilek says.

Her greatest find is a red five-panel wood door which she transformed into a headboard for the master bedroom – although she didn’t have a purpose in mind when she bought it.

“I thought, ‘I’ve got to have that door, but what am I going to do with it?’ ” Bilek says.

All the door needed was a good scrubbing before going on the wall. Bilek installed screws in the wall studs, put D-rings on the back of the door, hung it so that the side painted a green-ish hue was toward the wall, and pushed the bed back to meet it.

Chic cabinets

Although many features in Kathy Farfsing’s College Hill home – like patches of brick flooring – are leftover materials from a previous owner’s family construction business, she wasn’t thrilled when her husband brought home a set of old wood cabinets for refurbishing their laundry room, which didn’t have a sink or any cabinets.

“I’ll be honest, I was just disgusted,” Farfsing says. “They looked like they were pulled out of a rental property. They were about as dirty and disgusting as you can get.”

The couple sanded, cleaned then power-sprayed paint onto the cabinets, added new milk-glass handles and accented the 1950s feel with curtains that Kathy made with vintage fabric purchased on eBay.

Her husband built a cedar closet beneath a new maple cabinet purchased at Building Value – distributors infrequently donate new items that are being discontinued – built a countertop and added maple trim to tie it all together. Four inexpensive bins under the counter help them sort each child’s clean laundry.

Sensible storage

Technically, the two storage sheds at Salem Community Church in Anderson Township are less than a year old, but only a few materials were purchased new.

Last summer, Steven La Count, 17, his father, John, and members of Steven’s Eagle Scout troop put in more than 1,000 hours to build the 12-by-12-foot sheds almost completely out of reused materials.

The previous shed for the lawn and garden equipment was “pretty dilapidated,” La Count says.

After seeing the prices of new material and kits, the La Counts went looking for second-hand stock at Building Value and purchased 200 pieces of cedar siding for the walls, oak trim and molding for the exterior corners and even stained glass windows that crown the doorway.

They cut material and permit costs by building onto the existing concrete pad, and used glass from an old television screen for the windows. The completed project cost about $2,000 total, funded by church donations and a car wash.

La Count says he enjoyed the process – with the exception of installing the roof in the summer heat and sorting through the siding, which came from an old barn – and earned a leadership badge for his hard work.