5 Unique Ways of Integrating Recycled Materials into Your Décor

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Contributed By Alex Moore

You can give your home a beautiful unique décor with recycled materials. These five decorating ideas will curb the massive sprawl of landfills across America, without making it look like you are just keeping the stuff in your house instead!

1. Case Shelves

Old suitcases and musical instrument cases are made from a variety of materials, making them all but impossible to break down into components for recycling. Even if you could, that would destroy their unique character that makes them a great choice for shelving!

This project is also a great use of scrap lumber because of the short lengths needed and because the unsightly scrap wood is covered by the case. 

Finding the old cases may require some legwork. When checking at garage sales, be sure to ask about old luggage. Owners sometimes don’t even bother to put it out because no one wants it.

Cut the case to the desired depth, using a reciprocating saw. Be sure to wear safety protection when cutting. Depending on the case, you may want to cut through a strip of duct tape to keep the case intact.

Build a U-shaped frame from scrap lumber that will fit inside the case. If you plan on putting books or other heavy items on the shelf, consider adding additional supports running out into the case. 

If you find you have a knack for this custom work, consider offering your products online at Esty.com. They are available but have few sellers at this time.

2. Yarn from Plastic Bags

You can make the ultimate recycled material from plastic grocery bags.

Lay the bag flat and, using sharp scissors, cut off the bottom and the handles. Fold the trimmed bag lengthwise 4 or 5 times, then cut it into 1- to 2-inch wide segments. Unfold the segment while being careful not to tear the welded seam. 

Take one loop and pass half of a second loop through it. Pull that half through the rest of the second loop, tying it to the first loop. Continue until you have made a chain. Then crochet the chain into yarn using a size K or larger crochet hook. This video shows how simple this really is. 

This is a great project to fill “lost” time or to do with your kids in the evening. The yarn is a used in a wide variety of decorating projects around the house, such as door draft stoppers. 

3. Vase from Plastic Spoons

Pick out a large can and all the plastic spoons from the last party from the recycling bin. Carefully snip the spoons off at the top of the handle. 

To make the vase, mix colour and white paint in 3 to 5 distinct blobs on a large plate. Put increasing amounts of white paint into each blob and mix it in. 

Lay out the spoons face down in rows, estimating how many spoons you will need in each row and how many rows to cover the can. Paint the back of each spoon.

Start at the top of the can with the lightest colour and glue the spoons to the can in rows; overlap the rows as you go down the can.

4. Fireplace Light

It’s straightforward to put an electric log insert in an old fireplace, but, if you don’t want to use it for heat, here is a beautiful alternative.

Cut the cups out of egg cartons, trimming the edges into either a flame shape or petals. Spray paint the insides and outsides of the cups to match your décor. 

Make a chicken-wire screen that fits into your fireplace. Attach the egg cups to the chicken wire with floral wire. Cut a slit in the bottom of each cup and push one light bulb of a strand of holiday tree lights through each cup. 

Put the screen in the fireplace. The flexibility of the chicken wire makes it easy to keep it in place. 

If you want to put a smaller heater into your electric fireplace for energy efficiency, you can shape the fireplace light to fit around the heater to block the flow of warm air up the chimney. Make sure the egg cups do not come near the edge of the heater.

5. Silverware Hooks

These are a mainstay on Esty and other craft sites, but, with a little practice, you can craft something that suits your taste. 

All you will need is a ball peen hammer and a couple of pairs of pliers. Two pairs of tongue-and-groove pliers will do for a start. You may find yourself working up the kind of detail that requires needle-nose pliers. Make sure you have a solid work surface such as a butcher block mounted on solid legs. 

In addition to coats and hats, consider putting silverware hooks in the kitchen for coffee cups and dish towels.

A decorating project with recycled materials can be as involved or as easy as you want to make it. With a little imagination and advice, the one thing that it does not need to do is look recycled. The actual term is “upcycled”. Wink!