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Getting down with upcycling

Materials destined for landfill see new life in kitchen

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A cast-iron American Standard sink rescued from the bush, countertops from granite destined for the dump and long upper cupboards made from old wooden lockers come together in a custom kitchen.

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A cast-iron American Standard sink rescued from the bush, countertops from granite destined for the dump and long upper cupboards made from old wooden lockers come together in a custom kitchen.

If you're thinking of working with friends and family to build a custom kitchen from scratch, on a budget and with recycled materials and salvaged hardware, suppress the idea and run -- don't walk! -- to Ikea instead.

Just kidding. You can do it and it's well worth the time and effort.

Here's the story of our "new" kitchen and why I adore it. Almost everything in it -- with the exception of the new energy-efficient appliances -- has been repurposed, recycled or re-imagined.

Much of the higher-end stuff (the stone and some lighting) was destined for the landfill. A few choice items were hauled out of the bush and a burn pile.

The table was crafted by my man and the entire kitchen was built by a very dear friend. The LED "pot light" pendants are made from old track lighting and vintage concrete flowerpots -- by me.

This cook space may not be Boffi, Eggersman or even Ikea, but it's definitely got character.

Our carpenter, Jeff Dexter, is a talented salvager and the best kind of collector: one who shares. Dexter has a stash of carefully deconstructed building materials on his nearby rural property. It's like a Home Depot for those who know all about "upcycling" -- items that have not only been given new life, but given better life.

For this project, Dexter cheerfully let go of several wooden lockers, which he had saved from an old firehall, damaged in a fire. The lockers are used on the upper cabinets (sideways) and lower as doors, as well as for the long pantry next to the fridge. Dexter constructed the kitchen shelves from recycled lumber, salvaged from a house that was being demolished. The hardware is repurposed, purchased from our local ReStore.

How badly did I want marble in my kitchen? Really badly. So, when we heard that a supplier had to immediately empty a storage warehouse full of leftover bits of building materials, my guys hightailed it over there with a cube van.

Notice the granite? That, too, was destined for the landfill. It was already cut to counter width, so we used it lengthwise and affixed the marble as a backsplash.

When you salvage stuff, you never know exactly what you may end up with. And surprisingly, free is not necessarily inexpensive. For example, the high-end low-voltage aluminum lighting came from another construction bin, but took me weeks to figure out, as all the parts were mixed up and disassembled. Also, I am not an electrician. I had to buy two pieces of rail from a wholesaler, which cost more than I had budgeted for a brand new lighting system. Those bulbs? Expensive.

But the sink makes up for it. The cast iron American Standard came from the bush beside Dexter's property. It's as heavy as a small car. But it's also deep and lovely and perfect for canning and washing up. I love my sink.

My plumber wasn't as impressed with it. "It's a slop sink," he announced dryly. "Very janitorial."

"Janitorial-chic," I replied with a smile. Above the sink, the windowsill "blooms of the day" display is made from recycled shooter glasses set into a chunk of driftwood.

That nine-foot dining room table? Rescued from a sawmill burn pile. My partner John Gillespie constructed the cedar slabs into a butterfly tabletop with oak stitches (from an old delivery pallet) very similar to one I had clipped from Belle magazine. A welder friend of his made the legs from scrap metal.

Finally, the side wall has a little crate montage and a catch-all bench (also made by John) constructed from solid oak timbers that were the base of a vintage industrial shipping crate. The market bag was stitched by my shoemaker, fashioned from an old piece of painted canvas and two recycled leather belts. The crates are handy in the kitchen for storage and for going back and forth to the garden.

But the best part of the kitchen? Knowing that all this good stuff didn't end up in the dump.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 1, 2013 A1

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