For All Intents and Repurposes

Leah LeMoineJune 2016
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There’s something almost mystical about transforming something old and discarded into something fresh and beloved. “Repurposing as a design aesthetic speaks to the beauty of possibility,” Lisa Olson says. “It harnesses the past and turns it into something new and better.” 

Repurposing is something Olson is intimately familiar with as owner and proprietor of Practical Art, the Phoenix boutique that carries solely locally made art and products, many of which are repurposed from found objects, like the wine barrel Lazy Susans created by Jim Daut and the robots Aaron Voigt crafts from car parts. “Beyond housing these reinvented art works, we also practice repurposing ourselves,” she says. “The majority of shelves and display cases throughout our store have been repurposed from other shops, galleries or homes.”

It’s an environmental ethos as well as a design one for Traci Goure. “I’m a big proponent of keeping the earth clean and not building a landfill bigger,” says Goure, owner with Kim Osgood of Fabulous Rehabs in Fountain Hills, which specializes in “rehabbing” castoffs. “Take something and upcycle it and make something new out of it instead of throwing it [away]. We do a lot of dumpster diving, in fact.” Both shops offer classes to help customers turn disused items into true treasures – not just hokey craft projects.

“Reusing and repurposing materials is so much more than the Pinterest-fueled ‘upcycling’ trend,” says Malori Maeva, co-owner of Lola + Pine. She and childhood friends Sean and Kristina Barr create geometric planters out of wood reclaimed from trees cleared for development. “For us, it’s about finding a way to really bring a story into our homes. We love being able to give new life to something that would otherwise be garbage.”

To help with the trash vs. treasure decision, Lora Barnhiser, who creates art using reclaimed wood under her ReGrain Studio label, has a mental checklist. “Before taking anything home I ask myself a few questions,” she says. “Does this piece have potential to become something beautiful or useful? Does it pair well with my other treasures? Do I have room for it? Does it make me happy? I never have trouble finding potential in pieces.”

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5070 N. Central Ave., Phoenix


“You can imagine the wine barrel filled with the aromatic scent of aging red wine, crowding the dusty cellar of a vineyard in Napa,” owner Lisa Olson says of Jim Daut’s wine barrel Lazy Susans (below, $150-$225). She says Aaron Voigt’s car part robots (left, $90-$235) “are joyful and fun. Each robot has a distinctive personality. We love that the tag lists where the parts were repurposed from to give you insight into the history of each piece.”

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“We’ve had customers purchase our air plant stands to display household treasures,” co-owner Malori Maeva says. “If you have trouble keeping your plant alive, you can fill it with a fake plant or fill it with small items such as paper clips. We love to see our customers’ creativity and encourage them to share their alternate uses with us.” Planters range from $20-$65.

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ReGrain Studio

Available at local markets and MADE art boutique

“There seems to be a line between fine art and home décor. I have a tough time sticking to one style of work and often play hopscotch with that line,” artist Lora Barnhiser says of her reclaimed wood creations ($15-$100). “The commonality in my work is that each piece was created from wood that no one wanted. I lovingly call my pieces ‘misfits,’ as they just didn’t fit in somewhere else.”

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