What’s Old Is New Again

Repurposed Furniture and Accessories Make For Unique Home Decor. 

If you like the idea of having unique pieces in your home, or are the type of person who loves a good project, you might want to think about including repurposed furniture and accessories in your home’s decor. Popularized in recent years by television shows like “American Pickers” and websites like Pinterest and Instagram, repurposed items often cost much less than new ones. 

According to Steve Fortier, the owner of Canal Street Antique Mall in Lawrence, older furniture also tends to be better made than many pieces you can find in contemporary showrooms, even at higher-end shops. “They were making better quality stuff in the 1920s through the 1940s,” he says. “A lot of new furniture these days is made in China. The joints loosen up over time.” 

Fortier also says decorating with repurposed items helps keep still-useful things out of landfills. 

Adding unique items to your home’s decor is also a great way to show off your personality and creativity. That’s the beauty of repurposing. Almost anything goes.

Melissa Scola-Staude, the owner of Melissa’s Perfect Piece, which has a retail shop inside Canal Street Antique Mall, says customers who buy repurposed furniture from her are often looking for something out of the ordinary. “I set myself a bit apart from other designers,” she says. “I do a lot of polka dots and plaids on my painted furniture. Those pieces don’t always sell as quickly as the ones painted in neutral tones, but there are people who are out there looking for them.” 

Also known as “upcycling,” taking old and found objects and making them new again can be a lot of fun. With a few coats of paint, a large wooden wire spool becomes a durable and attractive coffee table; a worn-out dresser with its top drawer removed makes a unique entertainment center with lots of storage for cables and DVDs. Even old doors, windows, woodwork and floorboards can be reused.

Fortier says many of the pieces sold at Canal Street have been created from things like old workbenches, sewing machine tables and other items that have been rescued from Lawrence’s old mill buildings. “We just made a beautiful bathroom vanity from an old sewing machine table,” he says. “Sometimes we might take the legs off one piece and use them with the top of another to make something completely new.”

Repurposing vintage and antique furniture can be a great way to save money, show off your personality or finally acquire the perfect piece to match your existing decor. Some older pieces of furniture are made better than newer ones, too, so repurposed items can be great bargains. Photos by Emily O’Brien Photography.

Interior designer Debbe Daley, the owner of Debbe Daley Designs, formerly in Lowell and now in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, says decorating with repurposed furniture can work for anyone, regardless of their budget.

“Many people are repurposing what they have, painting something to update it rather than buying something new,” Daley says. “In higher-end showrooms, we’re also starting to see new pieces that have been made to look like something that’s been repurposed. Oftentimes those pieces can be very expensive.”

Jill Cormier and Krista Witt, the owners of Acorn Home and Design in Andover, say that many of their customers who come to them with a special piece, or looking for a special piece, are less interested in deals than they are in the one-of-a-kind nature of a repurposed armoire or sofa. “People are more aware of the value of things than they once were,” Cormier says. “They look at an older piece as more of a ‘find’ than something they can save money buying.”

Many of Cormier and Witt’s customers come to them because they are interested in reupholstering an older chair or sofa. But according to Cormier, the investment can be similar to that of buying something new. “Once you factor in the fabric and the labor, reupholstering a piece can be very expensive,” she says, “but it’s worth it for people who are looking for something
unusual and unique, or who love an existing piece in need of an update.”

Sometimes, however, Cormier and Witt are presented with pieces that really aren’t worth the money it would require to repurpose them. “It’s important to understand and know the quality of a piece,” Witt says. “Research the name. It’s an investment, and what you end up with [after repurposing something] can be that much more valuable.”

In order to avoid choosing pieces that might not be worth the money or effort you’d have to put into them, Daley offers some advice. “Check items for stability. If they are wobbly or in need of repair, and you still decide you want them, try to get the dealer to give you a break on the price,” she says. “If a piece needs work, try to figure out if it’s something you can do yourself, and if not, how much it will cost. There are some things you just can’t fix.” 


Acorn Home and Design Center
Andover, Mass.

(978) 273-9717

Canal Street Antique Mall
Lawrence, Mass.

(978) 685-1441

Debbe Daley Designs
Portsmouth, N.H.

(603) 427-8648

Melissa’s Perfect Piece
Lawrence, Mass.

(978) 408-1832



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