Re-purposing materials and fixtures intended for landfills has become de rigueur for on-trend designers and architects who wish to give their clients opportunities to utilize second-hand objects in new and unique ways. Antiques and vintage furniture aside, the use of recycled elements within home and commercial interiors is often employed to surprising and one-of-a-kind results.
Building Value in Northside is a nonprofit with a mission in line with the aforementioned professional home stylists and commercial architects. A building materials reuse center and deconstruction service, Building Value also provides on-the-job training for disabled and disadvantaged people in the community — lending credence to the notion that people, too, are not merely disposable.
Like its parent organization, Easter Seals Tristate, Building Value empowers individuals to achieve a higher quality of life through employment and self-sufficiency. And for the past three years, Building Value has included a “designer challenge” element at their ReUse-apalooza fundraiser, which demonstrates the remarkable work that artists and creative types can make out of the materials the nonprofit acquires from various deconstruction jobs, donations and retail recycling projects.
The designer challenge engages local business owners such as mother/daughter team Stephanie Heesten and Emily Chopelas of Market Side Mercantile, in crafting an object over the course of several weeks (with help from a modest store credit at Building Value,) that will be auctioned off at ReUse-apalooza with all proceeds to benefit job-training programs for people with disabilities and disadvantages.
Heesten and Chopelas’ main objective for Market Side Mercantile (conveniently also located in Northside) was to find and repurpose furniture that might end up in a landfill, so clearly their work is compatible with Building Value’s mission.
They are frequent shoppers of the materials reuse center, but actually picked up the main design element for their contest entry from a Northside cleanup day.
An old paper stand that was left on the sidewalk was donated to the shop and the mother daughter pair thought it only made sense to fix it up and pay it forward to the community. With their small credit at Building Value, they purchased water pipe and wire shelving to create a portable mini-bar inside of the paper stand that will include a tip-towel holder and a spot for a few glasses and bottles.
David Tarbell, a part-time designer and artist (metal fabricator by trade), like Heesten and Chopelas, is also participating in the challenge for the first time this year. According to Tarbell, his environmentalism “consists of common sense lifestyle choices,” but he also understands that “the more we reuse things, the fewer iron mines we have to dig, trees cut down.” For his piece, the designer will be using Coilex baffles (those ubiquitous can lights) that he picked up at Building Value, spliced into six sections and hung in shingle-like fashion to make a chandelier that was inspired by a catalogue of art deco light fixtures housed in the Cincinnati Public Library’s Rare Books department.
Cori Cassidy, architect with A359 Partners in Architecture, will be participating in her third designer challenge event with friends and colleagues Tom Arends and Chris Collett. The three architects and designers focus on sustainable solutions for the built environment in their daily work, but this annual event allows them to see “tangible results of our efforts over the course of a few weeks rather than the 18 months to a two-year process,” says Cassidy.
Past projects the team has completed for the designer challenge include a coffee table fashioned out of an old art easel and a kitchen hutch that the team re-made into a rolling bar cart. For this year’s fundraiser, the three are repurposing a cabinet into a storage table — incorporating elements found at Building Value such as shutters, porch ceiling slats, interior commercial lighting and kitchen cabinetry.
Among all of the participants in Building Value’s annual designer challenge, one thing they share in common is the knowledge that objects and materials can almost always be repurposed. In fact, in a world full of mass-produced goods so often meant for short term consumption and subsequent disposal, reusing materials is one of the few ways designers can employ one-of-a-kind elements into their design scheme — not to mention it just so happens to be good for the environment. Add to that Building Value’s commitment to the surrounding community, and you’ve got the makings of a great event.
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