I wanted to share this great article from Montgomery Media about the Upcycle Challenge I am currently involved in!
April 19, 2014 | By Victoria Wolk
Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County has launched its first-ever UpCycle Challenge, which gives five local women the chance to transform an empty home into something a little more special.
The house is part of a Habitat-built twin home in Hatfield that was dedicated in December, though only half of it is currently inhabited. The woman who will be moving into the other side with her young son has to first complete 200 hours of work for Habitat, one of the requirements to receive a home through the organization, said Marianne Lynch, executive director of HFHMC. The new homeowner is expected to move in during May or June.
Meanwhile, Habitat decided to use the empty home to promote the idea of repurposing furniture, or upcycling. The challenge suggests that contestants utilize thrift stores such as ReStore, a nonprofit home improvement store and donation center that benefits HFHMC.
“We’re encouraging them to use as many items from the ReStore as possible,” Lynch said.
The store sells furniture, paint, light fixtures and anything else you’d need to decorate a home. Designers are also allowed to buy materials elsewhere, but they can’t spend more than $500.
Each contestant was assigned a room of the house — dining room, living room or one of three bedrooms — although they weren’t required to decorate the space as it is intended for use, Lynch said.
The UpCycle Challenge was open to both amateurs as well as professional designers. Blue Bell resident Kristen Albone originally began decorating as a hobby, but she turned her love for design into a job about a year ago. For her business, Home by Kristen, she finds old pieces and repurposes them into something new. Her pieces come from Craigslist, garage sale websites and even from the side of the road.
“Anything that keeps things out of landfills,” she said.
Albone entered the design challenge to raise awareness for ReStore, which she now visits about three times a week.
“It’s like a candy store,” she said. “If you can imagine it, they have it.”
She was assigned the dining room, which she has chosen to decorate in a mid-century modern style.
“Shows like ‘Mad Men’ have brought back that ’50s vibe,” she said.
The design was inspired by a dining set she found at ReStore. After that, everything else just sort of came together, she said.
So far, she’s decorated mostly with things found at local thrift stores. She got the paint from ReStore; although they didn’t have the exact color she wanted, she was able to mix together a few shades to get the right look.
“I could have gone to Lowe’s and gotten it mixed, but it’s not rocket science to do it yourself,” she said.
An old computer desk she found in the trash has been turned into a sidebar table, and she put together a lighting fixture using a light bar from an old bathroom vanity and light cans from 1980s-style track lighting. Her only splurge so far has been on a wall embellishment.
Diane Pietrak, a Franconia resident who’s working on one of the house’s bedrooms, is proud that “99.9 percent” of her design has come from thrift stores. She’s joined in the challenge by her daughter, Katie Pietrak. Katie is familiar with upcycling: Her company, Vintage Vinyl Journals, transforms vinyl records into notebooks. The mother-daughter pair started browsing thrift shops together when Katie was young.
“Growing up, that’s what my mom and I would do together,” she said.
Pietrak is decorating the bedroom with bright colors, fun prints and many unique pieces. For example, she took apart a desk and created a nightstand, a bookshelf and a laptop tray.
“It’s rewarding to know that I couldn’t buy that anywhere,” she said of the finished product.
Although Pietrak has never made money on any of her upcycling projects, Katie thinks her mom should turn her love for design into a job.
“I’m encouraging her to get into it,” Katie said. “It’s something she really does enjoy.”
Many people get their upcycling inspiration from Pinterest, an online bulletin board that allows users to “pin” photos and links that others have shared.
“I’ve seen a lot of great items on Pinterest that have been repurposed,” Lynch said.
Albone uses Pinterest and similar websites, such as Houzz, a large collection of design and decorating ideas.
Pietrak, on the other hand, avoids using the Internet for inspiration; she aims to create original pieces that no one else has thought of yet.
“It makes you feel so accomplished,” she said.
The designers had to complete their rooms by April 16. Albone thought she’d be working right up to the deadline, while Pietrak was expecting to finish her design in a few days. On April 19 and 26, the community is invited to tour the house and vote on the best design, with a suggested donation to HFHMC of $10. The contestant with the winning design will receive a $100 gift card to ReStore, and one of the voters will be randomly chosen to get a $25 gift card of their own. The house, located at 140 Penn St. in Hatfield, will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
ReStore is open Wednesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at 533 Foundry Road in West Norriton.