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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 19, 2007

It's not junk: It's chic

By Bonnie Britton
Indianapolis Star

Sue Whitney and Ki Nassauer repurposed items to turn this bedroom into a cozy retreat.

Gannett News Service library photos

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A round grate that used to surround a stove vent is transformed into a candle-holder with the addition of a hurricane glass.

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Jim and Steve Kelley

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This Adirondack chair was spiffed up using fabric scraps, velvet ribbon and upholstery tacks by Sue Whitney and Ki Nassauer, editors-at-large and columnists for Country Home and JunkMarket Style magazines.

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  • Vintage metal letters and numbers

  • Game boards

  • Architectural salvage

  • Farm junk

  • Advertising

  • Botanical prints

  • Textiles of the '60s and '70s

  • Restaurant or hotel dishes

  • Sports paraphernalia

  • Once-in-a-lifetime "finds"

    Source: JunkMarket





    Home and Garden Television; search for "Country Style" and "Junk Brothers"

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    Repurposing for your home can mean anything from thinking of a new way to use a piece of furniture to turning junk into imaginative furniture and decor. It's a way of life for some.

    It's a way of life for some.

    Steve and Jim Kelley star in the popular HGTV show "Junk Brothers." Taking a tired, burned-out electric stove and tricking it out for use as an outdoor grill is just one of their junk-to-die-for projects.

    "There's stuff we do on the show that's over the top," Jim says. "But there are parts of what we do that can be applied to everyday things."

    Sue Whitney and Ki Nassauer, editors-at-large and columnists for Country Home and JunkMarket Style magazines, are goddesses in the world of turning garage sale finds and trash into treasures.

    "We really like the green aspect about recycling and reusing rather than putting it in a landfill," says Whitney. "People with $3 million houses are (repurposing)."

    So are interior designers. Annarie Cox of Annarie Cox Interior Design in Indianapolis moved to a new home and didn't want to get rid of some cherished pieces.

    So she removed the upholstered back portion from a mahogany ottoman and placed an unused piece of black marble on it for a top. She and husband Howard hung a gold-leaf pier mirror over it with the bottom resting on the base.

    "Use and reuse your treasures throughout life for real pleasure and great joy," says Cox.

    TV's "Junk Brothers" use their treasures to help others. They got their start in a family business, restoring fine antiques in Ottawa.

    Now they scour neighborhoods for junk that's been set out as trash, spirit it away in the night, and return it on the eve of the next trash day, repurposed.

    That takes imagination, says Steve. "By brainstorming and bouncing ideas and a little trial and error, you never know what you're going to get."

    Whitney and Ki Nassauer's book, "Decorating JunkMarket Style," and magazine are proof that castoffs can be turned into decorating items and furniture with cachet. In 2000, they started JunkMarket, a retail business, and now appear on HGTV's "Country Style."

    They met as hockey moms in Minnesota and discovered a mutual passion for the throwaways at flea markets; soon they found themselves traveling the country looking for items they could transform.

    Whitney says her children used to make fun of her, but now they understand her passion for making a house look great without spending much money.

    The magazine and book are filled with how-to projects. Iron vents and woodblocks become a decorative ladder shelf. Mechanical games, predecessors of modern pinball machines, look great on walls as art. Vintage faucet handles mounted on factory thread holders hold fresh laundry. An upside-down birdcage easily transforms into a planter filled with cocoa matting.

    Whitney estimates that over the years they have repurposed "thousands" of items, and jokes that she does it even in her sleep.

    A 1930s truck door proved a challenge she couldn't work out, though.

    It was too heavy. She wanted to turn it into a case with a TV behind it. "I just had to say OK, can't do it."

    A round grate that used to surround a stove vent is transformed into a candle-holder with the addition of a hurricane glass.


    Got junk? Here's some advice for repurposing household items.

    From Jim Kelley and Steve Kelley, the Junk Brothers:

  • Have fun with it.

  • Ask questions.

  • Stay within your skill set.

  • Make sure the piece is functional when you're finished.

    From Sue Whitney, half of the original JunkMasters:

  • What stops most people is lack of confidence. Style and design is about your inner person. Start small. Take a glass lampshade from the 1930s, turn it over, put it on a base and make a fruit bowl.

  • If you look at something, forget about what it was and think about what it can be. As soon as you say, "This is not a steering wheel," it's a lazy Susan.

  • Old wire collapsible laundry baskets are great because you can use them to hold towels or kids' toys. Slap a piece of glass on them and use them as a side table.

  • Watch for vintage fabrics. With '60s or '70s fabrics, stick to less bright colors and they'll become more timeless.

  • If you're going to make something from a drapery panel, buy one that's soiled or with a bad spot. You'll pay less and it still will serve your purpose.