13 Creative Ways to REpurpose Your Home

South African designer Katie Thompson is revolutionizing the way we think about junk.

Katie Thompson of REcreate describes her work as a mish-mash of South African craftsmanship and high-end perfectionist eclecticism. We asked Katie what on earth that meant, and spent some time picking out thirteen of our favorite wares. Here’s what she said, and here’s some junk we could happily REload into our living room.

#1. (Above) A well-traveled suitcase gets REcreated as a chair, upholstered in locally designed and manufactured fabric.

What’s happening now in South African design and how are you deviating from it?

I don’t follow trends that much. I [simply] have a love for junk and creating beautiful, functional things. I think I, unknowingly, started REcreate at just the right time. South African design is now definitely [going] down the green road. For my part, I studied interior design and have always loved broken or discarded things. Recycling followed.

#2. Old broken kitchen scales REinvented as clocks.

Where do you find your materials?  

Everywhere! People are constantly throwing things away.

#3. Give a golf club, oar, or paddle a little REnewal on life as a towel rack.

Like outdated sports equipment! You have an eye for vintage rackets. Are they yours?

I’m rather lazy when it comes to sporty activities! I have no interest in athletics other than liking the shapes, textures and colors of discarded sports equipment. I am not sure whether it is typically South African, but we do have a lot of sports equipment [lying around]. I’m currently making a young boy a custom made bedside lamp from an old rugby ball. So there must be something typically South African about [our love of sports]!

#4. An old school racket press is REpurposed to store photos both old and new.

Your junk does not come cheap. Who typically buys your work?

Our work appeals to all genders, nationalities, races, and ages. However, as I am a perfectionist and I want the REcreate brand to represent perfectly finished, repurposed products, not everyone is always able to afford the REcreate quality. We do a lot of custom work, whereby customers can supply their own “junk” to be custom made into something functional.

#5. An Imperial typewriter REfashioned into a working desk lamp.

Are you an environmentalist, or simply an upcycler? 

I am not an environmentalist at all. The terminology even confuses me! REcreate did not even start because of the environment. I only learned what Repurposing was a year after I had started REcreate. I thought we were recycling and didn’t know the difference. Of course, now that I have a clearer understanding of the positive effects of what we are doing, it has snowballed. We reuse everything now before recycling!

#6. A mismatched tea set impaled upon a lamp. What a clever and REvisionary mad-hatter?

#7. A vintage hatbox REcreated as an ottoman stool with storage.

#8. An empty bottle of Irish whiskey REborn as a sobering table lamp.

#9. An old (and mysterious) box is REfilled with natural canvas and transformed into furniture.

#10. An injured chair gets REfitted with Perspex.

#11. A sturdy frame REupholstered with roses.

#12. Herbs REplanted in abandoned tea cups.

#13. Antiseptic REinvestigated as a desk lamp.

K. Emily Bond

K. Emily Bond is the Shelter Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in southern Spain, reporting on trends in art, design, sustainable living and lifestyle.