New Uses for Old Things: 10 Ways to Repurpose Old Items

Our landfills are growing by the second — but there’s plenty that we can do to help, while also adding some extra functionality or style in our homes! Find decorating inspiration in these five unique ways to reuse items you already have. Mother Nature will be pleased.

Bottle Beauties

Instead of tossing empty glass wine, beer or soda bottles, take a look at them from a different angle. Many bottles have a beautiful shape or color, and could easily stand alone as decorative vases. For a modern look, consider painting the exterior of a bottle in a color that matches your home décor.

If your bottle has a label, soak it in hot sudsy water (use dishwashing detergent) for 5 or more minutes until the label becomes soft. Gently peel it away; use a scrub brush to remove any leftover residue. Before use, clean the insides of the bottles too — fill ¾ with warm water and a bit of dishwashing liquid. Cover the bottle with your finger or hand and give it a good shake. Rinse until the suds are gone and place upside down on a towel or dish rack to dry.

On a Roll

Empty toilet paper rolls are tossed in the trash faster than you can flush. Give them a new shot at life by using them to organize and store extra cords (the ones you’re not sure what they go to but you’re too afraid to toss them) to keep them from getting tangled. Wind a single cord into each empty paper roll and store side by side, standing up in a shoebox.

Book It

Do you have a pile of old books that you can’t bring yourself to get rid of but are just gathering dust? Opt for this unique idea: Purchase shelf brackets that are slightly smaller than the width of your favorite hardback books (from spine to opening). Secure the bracket to the wall and place the book on the bracket to create a decorative shelf. Stagger a few favorite tomes in a cohesive display and top with bud vases or small decorative items.

Display Case

Do you have an old cutlery tray that no longer has any use? Line the inside of the tray with pretty fabric or paper scraps — or paint it a favorite color. Attach small cabinet knobs and/or tiny hooks within each segment of the tray and use them to hang and organize favorite necklaces, bracelets and earrings.

Mad About Mason

Empty mason jars have so many reuses you might find yourself overwhelmed with the options. Here are some of our favorites:

•      Fill the jar part way with sand or rocks and top with a tea light candle. A grouping of these beauties will provide lovely candlelight for an intimate gathering.

•      Use them as single bud vases, grouping three or more together for extra effect.

•      Use them as drinking glasses at backyard BBQs — and save the planet from more tossed-aside plastic cups.

•      Store useful items such as sewing kits, colored pencils, ribbons, office supplies or any other items you find yourself stashing away in your junk drawer. The clear view allows you to easily see what’s inside so nothing ever feels too lost.

•      Create a hanging vase or candle holder: Wrap sturdy wire around the opening of the jar (under a ridge so it’s secure). Then use another piece of wire to wrap through that first wire at two points to create a handle. Hang from a wall or garden hook and fill with flowers or a tea light candle.

Bonus Round!

Looking for even more ideas? Try these five quick-and-easy reuse ideas for everyday items:

•      Turn old picture frames into cute little serving trays.

•      Use old shower hooks to hang purses in your closet.

•      An old hanging shoe rack can easily organize your pantry. Hang it on the door and separate snacks or spices in the pockets.

•      Need more jewelry organization? Use a cupcake tray to hold small items.

•      Use large clamp binder clips to keep computer and phone charger cords handy. Clip them to the edge of your desk and pull the cord end through the metal clamp hole.

New Ways to Reuse Old Holiday Decorations

As you dust off your boxes and bins of holiday decorations this season, you may be feeling excited for the holidays — but uninspired for your décor. Rather than replenishing your stock of seasonal décor items, consider giving those “leftovers” a new lot in life by repurposing them in new ways. Try these seasonal décor ideas from interior designer Virginia Burney.

Have a Re-Ball

Have some old ball ornaments that you no longer use on your tree? Burney suggests spray-painting them a favorite color or covering them in a thin coat of glue and rolling them in glitter. Then tie them to gifts as part of your gift wrap, or group a selection in a bowl and display as a centerpiece on a table or mantel. You can also purchase a circular wire mold at a craft store (in your desired wreath shape and size), then use fishing wire or clear elastic cord to tie the balls around the mold for a modern DIY wreath. Another option? Take them outside! Tie them to trees or bushes in your yard for some added seasonal curb appeal.

Go with Garlands

If you have strands of garlands gathering dust, try weaving them into your favorite wreath to give it some new flare. Is your garland outdoor friendly? Consider a new place for it outside, such as around your mailbox or above your entry steps. Does the garland itself need a refresher? Paint it with spray paint and add embellishments such as glitter and tied-on beads or accents.

Grow Up and Out

Just because you’ve grown up doesn’t mean your favorite childhood ornaments need to gather dust. Opt to display a second, smaller tree in a less formal space (such as the kitchen, family room, kid’s room or office) and pay tribute to holidays past. To display the ornaments in another way, Burney suggests hanging a selection of favorites from a garland above your mantel. Place a grouping of framed family portraits throughout the years along the mantel to create a nostalgic display.

Prevent the Hum-Drum Next Year

To prevent your style from feeling tired or stagnant, Burney recommends taking photos of your holiday décor after you’ve finished decorating each season. File those images with the ornaments. Next year, refer to the photos and aim for a new look. Having the previous seasons’ photos will help inspire you as well as remind you of unique ways you’ve used your seasonal decorations before.

Pare Down

If your seasonal décor collection continues growing each year, but you (like most of us) neglect to discard or donate old pieces, heed Burney’s advice: “My counting system for ornaments (and all collectibles): One is a find, two is a pair, three is a set, four is a collection and five or more is an obsession.”

And sometimes, of course, it’s just time to say goodbye. “When you haven’t used an ornament in any way for two years, it’s time,” Burney says. “Date your leftovers after decorating, and then delete necessary items to make room for new memories.” Find a new home for your unused decorations at a resale shop or with a deserving friend or neighbor.

No-Stress Decorating Ideas for Halloween and Beyond

When it comes to decorating a home for Halloween, there’s one thing to keep in mind: Stay true to your design style. Just because it’s a one-day-a-year celebration doesn’t mean you have to drop your love of fresh flowers or certain colors that aren’t typically associated with the holiday.

“Halloween is one of the most creative holidays, and a lot of the décor could be used beyond the holiday — even for Thanksgiving,” says New York City-based interior designer Robin Baron. When decorating, “think about who you are, what you gravitate to, your style and what your home looks like. It has to resonate with you.”

Try these easy, last-minute fall decorating ideas for both inside and outside the home:

Use pumpkins in different sizes and colors. For a modern-day Halloween, add a level of interest by looking for both white and the standard orange pumpkins in varied sizes. If you’re arranging table settings for a celebratory dinner, Baron suggests using one pumpkin per place setting and creating a slit in each one to insert a namecard for the guest. Add even more holiday flare by making napkin holders out of branches, she says.

Go natural. “One thing I love about this time of year is that it is fantastic to create things with organic produce,” says Baron. Aside from pumpkins, she suggests items such as apples, artichokes, gourds and berry branches, or even fresh green leaves on stalks. Use what you find to create vignettes in an entryway or as a table centerpiece that truly reflect the season. Mix in orange flowers in clear, orange or green vases for a special touch.

Don’t forget about the outdoors. Once you’ve decorated inside, take it outside your home too. For your porch or driveway, line battery-operated ghost lanterns or candles leading the way. Place large pumpkins on the ground, fill planters with flowers such as mums and hang cobwebs on the door to create a fun setting. “You could even create a wreath using mini-pumpkins for your door,” Baron says. Most importantly, Baron warns not to forget your windows. “Put candles in the windows,” she says. “They are a fantastic place to set the tone for the outside of your home.”

It’s fine to be cheesy.
 Have fun with it! Make a witch’s hat part of your arrangement for a table, entryway or mantel. Give your pumpkins huge eyes and fun, unique mouths. Buy those stretchable spider webs and place them on top of a light fixture or a table. Find cute containers or a big basket for candy, which guests can enjoy well beyond Halloween, Baron says.

Get the kids involved. “If you have kids, the most important thing you can do is keep them involved,” Baron says. One easy idea: Let your little ones stencil images of ghosts on colored paper, cut them out, and place them around the house.

How to Decorate with Houseplants

Whether or not you have a green thumb or an affinity for indoor herb gardens, there’s no question that houseplants add a decorative interest to any interior — as long as they’re kept alive, of course! From color, shape, texture and general eye-catching appeal, the options of plants (and planters) are seemingly endless.

How should you add houseplants to your interior décor? Follow these tips and considerations from Julia Mack, an interior designer based in Brooklyn, New York.

Keep Proportion in Mind
Knowing the proportion and potential growth of a houseplant before you purchase it will help determine the quantity of plants that your space will require. For instance, a small, sunny den may need only one tree and one tabletop plant to improve the space. But a large, sky-lit family room with a glass door leading to a deck or patio could likely handle two or three groupings of floor plants at a variety of heights. Ask your local home or garden store how large each plant will eventually grow to help you plan the amount of space that will be needed, as well as the number and size of accompanying plants.

Add Plants to the Kitchen
When adding houseplants to your interior décor, many people start with the living room. But kitchens also benefit from a little greenery — particularly indoor herb gardens. A small indoor herb garden placed on a sunny windowsill or hung on a sunlit wall will provide instant gratification — and your meals will reap the benefits too. Easy-to-grow rosemary, basil, thyme and parsley will flourish throughout cold months and will transition easily to the outdoors in summer.

Consider Your Lifestyle
Selecting houseplants that fit your lifestyle is also important. Some varieties require regular watering and maintenance, so you’ll want to keep your travel schedule in mind when making your selections. If plant maintenance is low on your to-do list, consider cacti or succulents, which require a minimum amount of work to stay both healthy and strong.

Planters = Accessories
Treat planters as an additional accessory in any room and choose styles that complement your existing interior décor. For a room with wood floors and earthy colors, try a bamboo basket or teak planter. A room with antique or period-style furnishings would be enhanced by copper, pewter or antique brass planters. And a modern space would surely pop with sparkling white porcelain or ceramic containers and modern stainless steel planters.

Decorating How-To: Layering Rugs

Layered rugs are a growing trend in the world of interior design; just browse Pinterest for a few minutes or open your most recent decor magazine and you’ll quickly spot the craze.

This trend creates a collected, textural feel for a room that satisfies and surprises. But trying to achieve such a look makes for tricky work. How do you confidently shop for the mismatched, yet coordinated, colors and furniture pieces required for this perfectly collected and curated design style?

One easy way to create that eclectic vibe is by topping a more neutral, natural-fiber rug with a pretty patterned option, which can put your living room on the fast track to that had-it-forever-but-works-perfectly combination. It’s a fairly easy trend to get on board, so long as you follow some simple tips!

For beginners, start with a natural fiber jute, sisal or seagrass rug. These make great rugs for busy spaces because they typically stand up well to high traffic. They’re also basic, casual and inexpensive enough to support a more fun, patterned rug on top. For the top layer, feel free to go much smaller and in a different shape. Even consider some color for a playful pop of personality.

Take a look at these inspirational photos to get motivated and layer it on!

Tangerine Tango: How to Decorate With This Vibrant Color

Decorating with color can be tricky, and working with bright, bold colors can feel especially daunting. The color-powerhouse Pantone Color Institute recently named one such color — “Tangerine Tango” — the top color of 2012.

“Sophisticated, but at the same time dramatic and seductive, Tangerine Tango is an orange with a lot of depth to it,” says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. “Reminiscent of the radiant shadings of a sunset, Tangerine Tango marries the vivaciousness and adrenaline rush of red with the friendliness and warmth of yellow, to form a high-visibility, magnetic hue that emanates heat and energy.”

Want to put this spirited reddish orange to use in your home? Try these tips to create a space full of warmth and personality.


Add a Pop
Commitment-phobes can still enjoy tangerine with a simple addition of one eye-catching accessory, such as a lamp, throw pillow or vase. Even the smallest pop can enliven a neutral space.

Brighten Up
Excellent for a nursery, kids’ room or even a home office, this color adds a refreshing dose of happy when applied to walls. Reluctant to paint an entire room? Go the simpler route and opt to paint just one accent wall. Keep other colors subtle — especially on the other walls. White is a nice, modern way to temper the tangerine, while still letting you add other colors with small accent pieces and artwork.


Create a Juicy Greeting
Set the tone for your home with an energetic entry. Whether modern, traditional or even cottage chic, any style home would be right at, well, home, with a front door doused in tangerine. Here, the color adds warmth to what would otherwise be a cold, industrial entry.


Get to Work
If your work space is like most, it could use a shot of liveliness. So bring in some orange accents, rug and fabrics to do the job. Here, a mix of floral and graphic patterns work well together, thanks to their matching orange-and-white color palette. To prevent the room from becoming too distracting, neutralize it with soothing gray walls that allow the bold colors to shine without overpowering.


Sleep With Citrus
A few bright splashes are all you need to give a space a new look. Soothing cream walls and a gray upholstered headboard create an envelope of quiet color in this master bedroom. And the pretty punches of orange give the space a wakeup call, preventing things from becoming too predictable. Adding a sisal rug offers a neutral foundation to help keep the space calm — just what every master bedroom needs.