Does green design get you drooling but you just can't afford new shelves made of sunflower husks or a sofa made from recycled fridges? (Yes, they exist.)
If you crave a bottomless makeover budget but haven't figured out how to grow money in upcycled planters, you've come to the right place. Here are some tips on reviving your decor eco-style without draining your wallet.
REPURPOSE IT: If you've been living under a rock, you might have missed the ongoing upcycling trend, which, as luck would have it, makes waste-turned-treasure super en vogue again in 2012. (Think old belts into doormats, cardboard boxes into lounge chairs.)
There's a growing number of fab pro upcyclers in Toronto (shops like Forever Interiors, MADE and Metropolis Living), but you can also try your hand at your own DIY repurposing. It can be straightforward (I turned an antique sewing machine into a TV stand; my friend turned wooden crates into shelves) or require a glue gun and pliers. (See Susan Wasinger's Eco-Craft book for a cool baby-food-jar chandelier, or Danny Seo's Upcycling book for a million ideas.) To paraphrase Seo, just put on your MacGyver-meets-Martha cap.
REPAINT IT: After nearly two years of living with the light-sucking, dark olive walls my apartment came with, I slapped down a zero-VOC primer and a fresh coat of cream in my living room and, wow, let there be light! Feels like I've got a whole new pad. Zero VOC ain't cheap (about $60 a gallon for Benjamin Moore Aura, AFM Safecoat or Yolo, though The Zero Point on Queen East has some Yolo at 25 per cent off), but it's way less costly than full-on redecorating.
And I'm not just talking walls. Repaint furniture, too! I got my pal Jelena at Poppyseed Living to give my mom's old oak kitchen table a weathered paint job for a fraction the cost of a fancy reclaimed harvest table. If you're creative, you can try a weathered paint job yourself.
SWAP IT: You don't have to be crafty or wealthy to green your decor if you opt to swap. Swapsity.ca lets you browse barterable furniture, wall decor, lamps and way more. One sample swapper I stumbled across is willing to give up some super-cool shelves in exchange for garden seeds or French lessons. Student alert: the U of T Swap Shop is a great place to drop off or pick up old furniture you're not using any more.
SHIFT IT: Co-opt the ways of a rich Rosedale wife and refresh your home's look by, say, recovering your throw pillows and switching up your table runner instead of sinking your cash in a whole new table or couch. It's especially eco if you use recycled fabrics (try sewing vintage cloth napkins or old scarves together for a runner, and turn preloved skirts into throw pillows). Moving your art around and regrouping it also gives your place an updated vibe without buying a single new item.
REFURBISH IT: Sick of looking at a footstool your cat shredded? Water marks or wobbly chair legs getting you down? Before you toss it, look into refurbishing. There are furniture repair shops on yellowpages.ca. (Ask if they offer soy stuffing or eco/vintage fabrics.)
Wanna tackle repairs on your own? Weldbond makes a good Eco Logo-certified universal adhesive (weldbond.com). The Zero Point and Homestead House Paint Company carry one of the least toxic paint strippers that works: Franmar Soy Gel.
CYBER-STALK IT: When you're hunting for anything from a second-hand coffee table to random recycled decorative accents like antique typewriters, browse craigslist.ca, kijiji.ca and ebay.ca. (Just make sure you're not buying from those selling new items.) It's not as fun as physically walking through an antique/flea market - Guelph's open-air Aberfoyle market is my fave - but the web is full of time-saving scores.
RESTORE IT: I don't mean polishing up dying antiques, but making the most of Habitat for Humanity's awesome ReStores, where you can buy or donate random stuff like an old sink or chandelier, paint and windows (which make great upcycled picture frames, FYI). In 2010, ReStores diverted 20,000 tonnes of stuff from landfills in this country. Plus, profits go to Habitat. Now, that's feel-good design.