Second Hand Prose.

This old  house has a few stories worth passing on. Listen up.

After a recent trip to a Swedish retailer, which shall remain nameless I am standing strong on a philosophy I have long thought to be a foundation stone to the sustainable future of our consumer driven economy. I have always had a sweet tooth for found objects, repurposed furniture, gently used clothing and well, some might say junk.   Not to mention pre-owned cars, leftovers and old fashioned hand-me-downs of all sorts.  This is the stuff that surrounds me and illustrates my level of taste, style, and identity.  Let me say now that I am by no means a hoarder, pack rat or junk collector.  Well…not yet.

On a planet with finite resources and space, it is worth looking at our consumption from “the triple bottom line” approach. A term coined by Jon Elkington in 1994 to evaluate the measurement of corporate performance from the perspective of the shareholder to that of the stakeholder and coordinate three interests: “people (social), planet (ecological) and profit (economic).”  Three interests that work together like the legs of a stool.  All must be equally strong for the stool to serve its function.

With so many manufactured products already crowding the corners of our world is there truly a need to always be looking for something “new” – newly manufactured, that is?  NEW to our household is something to think about.  Some of the best housing stock in our cities and neighborhoods is the vintage stuff.  Many of our most prized possessions have been around for longer than anyone can remember.   Classic cars, vintage clothing, retro design…see where I am going with this?

Not too long ago, I made some updates to my kitchen and bath in order to put my home on the market.  I had quite a time finding fixtures, lighting and finishes that matched the vintage integrity of my home while still making decisions that would appeal to buyers looking for updated amenities.

I did not want (and could not afford) to do a total remodel so I opted to get rid of a few pieces and replace them with vintage pieces that supported my concept of reusing existing materials and pieces…nothing “new”.  Just new to my old house – and me.   For the master bath I found a vintage pedestal sink that looked great and added a wonderful look with period light fixtures, accessories and paint colors.

My kitchen, which had been “remodeled” before I bought the place, had an entire wall with no cabinetry, counter or anything else useful for a functioning kitchen.   By retrofitting a farm cabinet I found in a 2nd hand store with lighting and glass shelves I was able to add additional storage and an element of authentic vintage character.  I also found a great farm table that had been used as a mechanic’s bench in an auto garage.  Needless to say, that was quite a restoration project.

So, back to the “triple bottom line” approach; people, planet and profit.  People; I contributed to a general well being by shopping locally, employing the services of a furniture restoration company, and engaging the services of a handyman for installation (do not for a minute think I did the work myself). Planet; I re-used existing stuff.  Profit; I saved money on the acquisition cost and put money in the pockets of a local merchant, restoration company, and handyman.

I know that applying TBL, (3BL) to home remodel projects is pushing the envelope a bit.  My goal in using this analogy is to make us think globally about the decisions we make in our homes, shopping habits, and daily routines.  Yes, it takes more time and requires more planning but the benefits outweigh the efforts.

Upcycle. Just something to think about.

2 responses

  1. Someone said, First we shape our surroundings, then they shape us. The concept that what we surround ourselves with has an effect on our lives seems to belong to a bygone era. Have our attention been absorbed so totallly into our technical devices that we are oblivious to the beauty that surrounds us? Or the fact that it could surround us if we gave it some direction, some help, some rescue effort.

    I am so glad you’re taking this on. I’ve spent many years in the building industry seeing much new construction with little thought to sight lines, focal points, proportions of windows, walls and views, and how to focus a home away from the tv and towards communication and communal living. What we surround ourselves with definitely shapes our lives. Finding beauty makes our lives beautiful. But we need to relearn how to identify it in the small things, and find it expressed in bigger things.

    In olden days, the building of a house was slower. There was time to handmake a built in furniture piece. There was a need for a library with a ladder that could slide smoothly along metal rails, and every dining room focused a family around a dinner table where people actually faced eachother.
    Have we lost all this? I hope not. This is what I would like to see revived, otherwise I believe we should go forward in our thinking and understanding.

    Great blog. Gorgious pictures. Good luck further.

    • Thanks so much! Shame on me for taking too long to reply. I really like your call out in regard to “devices’ and absorption into technology. Amen! Yes, the things that surround us absolutely shape who we are and what we become.

      Oddly enough, I was driving by a newer housing development in my hood today and I literally had to get out of the car and gawk. I was embarrassed that today was the first time I noticed how out of proportion and poorly placed the windows were. An absolute train-wreck of design and aesthetics. I suspect I could go on and on….

      Stay tuned for more.

      Thanks again.

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