Diann Getty of Fort Wayne has one of those minds that many a home decorator might envy.
“I have a very vivid imagination,” she says. “With a lot of things, I can look at something and see how it could be something else. I’ll just pick up something and say, ‘That would be so neat for a – fill in the blank.’ I have those visions a lot. It’s just a natural thing that I have.”
Around Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore in Fort Wayne, long-time volunteer Getty, 71, is known for taking dated brass-and-glass lighting fixtures and painting and otherwise redoing them into more stylish accessories. And that makes her part of a band of area up-cyclers who use the store at 3837 N. Wells St. for decor inspiration and supplies.
Megan Hubartt, Habitat’s spokeswoman, says some crafty folk have started with indoor louvered window shutters, painted them and turned their slats into mail sorters adorable enough for a front hallway. Other customers have turned acoustic ceiling tiles into memory-minding bulletin boards capable of replacing a whole refrigerator door full of magnets and sticky notes.
File cabinets have been made into garden tool holders and cast-off kitchen cabinets into mud-room storage benches. One of Hubartt’s favorite projects made decorative Ottomans for seating or storage out of always-abundant pallet boards and bulk yardage.
The project, she says, can be completed at a fraction of the cost of similar items in stores such as Target and Wal-Mart.
Jennifer Frazier, 40, of Fort Wayne, was looking for shutters to make into a headboard when she was shopping at the ReStore one day. But instead she found a wooden cabinet door marked at $5.
“It was flat on the edges and flat in the middle, and I thought it would be perfect for a tray,” she says. “So I went over to the handle section (in hardware) and I grabbed two little handles and screwed them on to each side to make a tray you could hold.”
She painted the tray, and did one face in chalkboard paint – the better for leaving love notes when serving a special someone breakfast in bed.
Or, as is more likely in her house, for her two girls, Leah, 9, and Ally, 13, to leave messages on for mom.
Frazier, in marketing at Vera Bradley, keeps the tray on a table in the family home’s great room as a decor item. She says she was so inspired she returned for smaller door cabinets. She’s turned one into an art piece by painting it with a green-and-white graphic chevron pattern.
“We love color at Vera Bradley and maybe that’s why I got so obsessed with painting things,” she says. “I went through a phase when I was painting everything in the house.”
Repurposer Emily Grohnke of Fort Wayne took what she thought was a modern desk with a finish in very bad condition and painted the item lemon yellow, along with replacing the drawer handles with more countrified ones.
She also found a small metal chair with mid-century modern lines. She spray-painted it white. The result: a cute and color-coordinated student desk set.
“I actually use it,” she says. “I do distance learning from Purdue University’s veterinary technology program, so it’s a good place to keep me organized.”
Grohnke, 32, says a label on the back of the desk informed her it was actually meant to be a lady’s vanity. The whole project came in under $60, including paint.
“It’s nice to take something that was ugly and just make it nice again and make it your own. It’s not hard. It’s just sandpaper and primer and paint. It’s just like painting a wall,” she says.
Hubartt says many of the ReStore’s repurposing clientele are motivated by popular online idea clearinghouses such as Pinterest, in which users can post pictures of finished projects so other users can adopt, or adapt, the ideas.
Repurposing the store’s items has proven so popular that Habitat is now including an article on a project in each edition of a monthly email newsletter for frequent customers, she says.
Hubartt strives to make each idea one that can be done with supplies currently available or in abundance at the ReStore. Articles include a picture, helpful links and information about supplies, often including discounts.
The free newsletter is available by signing up at the store’s front counter or subscribing at http://fortwaynehabitat.org/restore.
“People would come in and tell us about something they did. They were excited about something they made from the ReStore. Sometimes people would email their projects to us or post them on their Facebook page or ours,” Hubartt says.
“It’s always fun to share ideas, and see what other people do,” she adds. “We’re trying to give people a little inspiration and get them to think outside of the box.
“And we need help to move things out of the store,” Hubartt adds. “You can’t keep them on the floor forever.”
Getty says she has given most of her projects away to family and friends. Her latest out-of-the-box project, she says, remains unfinished.
After turning one brass-and-glass fixture into a decorative bowl, she’s now turning another, a chandelier, into a bird feeder.
“I’m putting tea cups and saucers on it for the bird food,” she says. “It’s something a little different. ... I’m kind of a person who likes to do things once and then move on to something else.”