Repurposing Objects from the Past Can Turn “Worn” into “Wow.”

Wrenda Goodwyn • special to the Fort Myers News-Press• November 29, 2011

Decorating your home with things that have already seen a long life – furniture, art, sculpture--man-made or from nature --- can bring a unique, one-of-a-kind charm that shopping for something new can never achieve. And when objects that were intended for one purpose are given a brand new life as something entirely different ---well, the word “creativity” can take on a whole new meaning.

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A steel hatch from a salvaged Navy warship, still with its original rivets and brass fittings, becomes a wonderful coffee table in a local Captiva beach house.

Everything old is new again, as the saying goes.

The word “repurpose” appeared in Webster’s in 1984.  The definition: to change something so that it can be used for a different purpose. 

Repurposing is not a new concept. People have been looking for new uses for their “stuff” since the beginning of time. Sometimes out of necessity.  Often because it is just hard to part with something and you need to find a better use for it.  Repurposing is very popular at the moment,  a trend that is hopefully becoming a permanent part of our lifestyle.

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A hand-crafted lentil that once hung over a window of a southern plantation home now serves as a wonderful display shelf for a collection of favorite shells and coral.

There are some really good reasons to repurpose.  It helps to cut back on what takes up space in the landfill. You will save money repurposing instead of buying new.  And it gives a lot of satisfaction to know that you have “saved” a vintage piece that has been tossed aside.  

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Fanciful-colored wooden oars, worn from years of service on row boats of all sizes, now hang as a striking nautical family on a rack that was originally designed for drying tobacco plants.

With antique fairs, flea markets and garage sales in full swing with the cooler weather, you may wantFanciful-colored wooden oars, worn from years of service on row boats of all sizes, now hang as a striking nautical family on a rack that was originally designed for drying tobacco plants. to give repurposing a thought.  As you are browsing, remember that many items can be cleaned, painted or completely restored.  Look for items that can be used for functional, everyday uses or for an eclectic accent piece or as artwork.  The possibilities are endless if you develop a new way of looking at objects.  Several weeks ago I was going through an architectural salvage yard with a client who fell in love with two beautiful vintage doors.  She asked what she could possibly do with them.  I said:  "Headboards."  You will not find these new in a furniture store.

And repurposing does not have to cost anything. Think about the beautiful treasures from nature: wood and items that wash up on our beaches every day.  With a little imagination, they become art for our homes. 

And what will I do with the vintage ten foot Nantucket wooden rowboat that I just bought last week? It is falling apart, has charming but peeling turquoise paint and came with four antique oars.  And a big hole in the side. It cried out to me to be repurposed.  I am thinking of hanging it from an open beam ceiling over an outside gazebo bar!

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Once this vintage Nantucket rowboat is patched up and painted, it will be a focal point as it hangs from the open beam ceiling of a client’s outdoor gazebo bar.

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Strewn about and aged for decades on the edge of a lake in California’s High Sierras, dozens of pieces of driftwood have been brought together into a stunning, three-dimensional sculpture showing off Mother Nature’s unbelievable textures and patterns.


Wrenda Goodwyn is a Southwest Florida interior decorator. Visit her website at Call her at 949-1808 or e-mail For more decorating tips and photos, visit