Home & Garden

Repurposing saves money, adds originality to home decor

Grandma’s old junk chair is a decorative pot holder in Angie Myrtle’s front yard.
Grandma’s old junk chair is a decorative pot holder in Angie Myrtle’s front yard. The Wichita Eagle

Angie Myrtle of Park City is one of those visionaries who can look at, say, an old bike wheel and see a wreath for the front door. Or an old chalkboard as a heat shield behind the wood-burning stove.

Her ideas not only save money but give her house a unique look while letting her ride the waves of fashion without having to refurnish when something goes out of style.

“Reuse what you already have,” advises Myrtle, who with her husband, Martin, owns Air Capital Drop Zone skydiving center and who is also a paraprofessional at Stucky Middle School. Old things can be given new life with accessories or fresh paint or by using them in a different way.

“If you love something and your style changes, keep it. Make it work. It’s more about that than achieving any kind of certain style.

“I think the main thing that messes people up is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. ... I don’t have the time. So just do it.”

An example of a type of decor that has already ridden its crest of fame but is staying put in Myrtle’s house is a quilt rack built by her dad of barn wood. It takes up the lion’s share of a living room wall. Myrtle changes out what she hangs from the rack – whether it be a seasonal quilt or banners or pennants for someone’s birthday – and she uses the shelf on top as her mantle, because she doesn’t have a fireplace. The quilt rack could be considered country, but Myrtle doesn’t consider that her style. “It’s what you put with that.”

Myrtle says her style is eclectic. Her bedroom is a little bit vintage and could have gone Shabby Chic, “but my husband would have detested it. So I kept the lace and flowers out.”

An old screen door propped up against a wall of the bedroom holds her jewelry. “I probably should have scraped the paint or put a new screen on it, but I didn’t need it, and it’s honestly part of the charm.” Hand-towel holders, curtain rods and rake heads also can be used for jewelry storage, she says.

Before discarding a broken piece of furniture, Myrtle sees whether she can salvage parts of it. Old drawers can become decorative storage boxes. One such drawer sits on her front porch, serving as a planter.

Myrtle says she’s not a skilled artisan, and she draws on the expertise of friends and family to carry out her ideas when she can’t do it herself. Her niece Heather Eck of Hays transforms old furniture and makes other items for her business Wildflowers & Pistols. Eck is the one who transformed the old drawer on Myrtle’s front porch by decoupaging it with scrapbook paper. She says it’s easy to do by applying Mod Podge to the surface of the drawer with an old brush and then any kind of paper – tissue, wrapping, scrap – or even fabric. Let that dry, then apply another layer of Mod Podge over the material.

Myrtle’s florist-friend Vanessa O’Brien decorated the bike-wheel wreath, and filled Fiesta coffee mugs with moss and artificial succulents as a centerpiece down the center of Myrtle’s dining table. Myrtle can switch out the saucers underneath to change up the color scheme.

Myrtle collects Fiestaware, and it pulls a lot of decorating weight in her house, especially in the kitchen. Myrtle decided to go with neutral cabinets with glass fronts to let the dishes show through and provide the color. She uses new and vintage Fiesta pieces as vases, planters, wall decor, soap dishes, bathroom accessories and dog dishes.

She thinks that if you love something, you should find a place to use it.

“I am very sentimental,” Myrtle says. An old wooden “junk” chair that used to be in her grandmother’s basement sits in a flower bed as a decorative element, holding a potted plant in the summer and pumpkins in the fall.

“Old wood makes a new project look like it’s been around forever,” she says. Her husband has picked up items at school auctions such as coat hooks, chalkboards and chairs that are now part of their home. Her father, Lawrence Eck of Tipton, made a long, narrow dining room table to perfectly fit her kitchen using floor joists from an old small-town school. Old fencing, barn wood and pallets also are good building materials, she says. And if an old piece doesn’t fit your house, cut it down to size, she says, as her husband did with an old church pew.

Myrtle likes to find furniture bargains on Craigslist; the top of a buffet that she bought for the living room is scratched, so she covered it with an inexpensive runner that she can change out for the seasons. She also shops at T.J. Maxx, Hobby Lobby and Target for inexpensive items. If you don’t like the color of your bargain, spray-paint it, she says.

“I like the mix of outdoor and indoor. I try not to go too crazy with it.” Garden finials that she bought on clearance in a little shop in Kansas City flank her quilt-rack mantle.

Myrtle keeps her eyes open and picks up old windows and chairs for cheap or free. Chairs on her front porch were not meant to be outdoors, but she painted them with outdoor paint and made cushions of outdoor fabric. Old windows hang on her walls as artwork. “It is all so much stuff that people could do themselves.”

She thinks her bike-wheel wreath is fabulous. “Most people have old bikes from their kids that they don’t even use. It’s junk. I left mine rusty because I like that, but you could spray-paint it bright red, or orange for Halloween. That’s literally someone else’s junk you don’t have to pay for, but you can personalize it for you.”

Reach Annie Calovich at 316-268-6596 or acalovich@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @anniecalovich.