The Best Things In Life Are Used

"New" cabinet/bench, about to be painted.

Anyone who enjoys fountain pens, typewriters, vintage furniture, visiting Rome, or other antique-y type hobbies knows all the touchy-feely reasons why used is better. Used things are worn in. They’re individual, not mass-produced. We feel that they’re simpler, and yet more romantic, and more valuable. Things that are used contain histories and stories (which are often the same thing).

Of course, “used” is often an ebay catchword for “mistreated” or even “unusable.” But even the “unusables” have a story behind their current state– some child who spilled on it, some backpacking trip where it fell between the rocks… still, the best used items are the ones that are still usable.

And the biggest heartbreak for an environmentally-minded artist (or any vintage scavenger-type) is how many usable used items go into the landfill, where they pretty much lose all chance of ever being used again. And one of the biggest sources of waste in our society is commercial buildings, and their construction.

Especially in the construction. There are some serious problems with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. The sustainable checklist for new buildings rewards only the sexy side of sustainability: the shiny new technologies and innovative designs. And architects will design a building specifically to get LEED points, instead of aiming for a design that is actually most sustainable and suited to the environment.

(So, for example– LEED gives you points for installing solar panels. But if you’re designing a building in Seattle, otherwise known as the “rainy city,” installing solar panels is a huge waste of money and resources. But hey, if you’re an architect, and you were hired to design a gold-standard LEED building, you go ahead and put those panels on the blueprint.)

But back to my subject. If your city has a place to buy salvaged/rescued construction materials, GO. Just, go. It’s a DIY-ers dream. Back in Charlottesville, we had a Habitat for Humanity Store, and here in Boulder, we have Resource 2000, a huge yard and warehouse, where I got this:

Art Shelves!

I’ve always had terribly awkward storage for art supplies, especially with my papers and sketchbooks. So these roll-out drawers were the perfect find.

Top Shelf. Plants and Pencils.

The first shelf (under the top) is stationary, so I keep my laptop and little pads of watercolor paper in there. Oh, and a deck of SET cards, of course.

Drawer 1. Ink Samples in a Cigar Box, and Paper Pads.

Drawer 2. Ink! And a salvaged wooden box that I fill with little office supplies.

Drawer 3. Miscellaneous papers, and a box of pastels that got dumped on the airplane 😦

And my new dream (after browsing Resource 2000) is to have a sink-garden, where I plant vegetables in salvaged porcelain pieces. I have visions of painted toilets and tubs, sprouting with tulips…

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