A Recycler at Heart

Here’s the plain ugly truth about me.

I pick through people’s garbage.


I often complain that my daughter looks like a bag lady no matter how much effort I put into her appearance.  She only stays neat and clean for precious few minutes.  She could do a commercial where she plays a poor English peasant girl begging for a mite with a tin cup.  Unfortunately I’ve realized that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

I’m no better than she.  I’m just a grown-up bag lady which is much, much worse.

I wish my ultimate goal of rummaging through trash was that I’m a great environmentalist determined to live a life that reflects my ideals; however, I hide soda bottles in my own trash.  Please don’t tell the rubbish removal engineers who pick up my cans.  I also create a bigger pile of trash on garbage day than the twelve family tenement around the corner.  So I stand without excuse.

I pick through garbage because I like the thrill of a find.  I also like FREE stuff.  That either makes me cheap or poor or maybe a little of both.

I already showed you Fringeboy’s toybox that came out of the trash, but now I will show you how I am decorating my living with nothing but other people’s castaway junk.  The thing is that I’m loving the look.  I guess it helps that I have no defined style.  I like some mission furniture, traditional, a little modern, retro, and odd.  I don’t think garbage picking would work for me if I actually had a defined style.

Enough words, I’ll give you picture.  Before and after!


Obviously this was before.  Notice the drop the ceiling, the ugly paneling, and the nasty green carpet.  That carpet was much worse than it looks.  You should have smelled it!  The paneling went to the ceiling, but they painted the top portion.

Next came stripping the walls.


Yes, that’s me on the ladder.  Not a flattering picture.  I know!


Next came the sterile looking room.  Many have doubted my non color choice for this room.  You’ve joked about it being the padded room, but I’m not completely crazy yet.  Have some confidence people!


Yes, the leather chair came out of the trash…last Thursday night to be exact.  It’s well-loved, worn to a comfortable fit for FringeMan, and has a small hole in the bottom left corner, but I love it.  It’s exactly what I wanted for the living room.  I also have a brass swing arm floor lamp that will sit slightly to side of the chair.  I just need to buy a new linen color drum shade for it.  That came out of the trash two Thursday’s ago.


This torch lamp was a real find…3 weeks ago.  Yes, Thursday night.  It’s a true antique.  That’s a milk glass shade on top and it’s been retrofitted to fit modern bulbs.  FringeMan says we can remove the adapter and buy old fashion large bulbs to put in it if I’d like.  I recently saw a lamp just like in an antique store for $65.  The cost of mine – $0.


You need to understand that this room is still evolving.  It’s far from done, but I’m not good at waiting to show pictures.  The table between the two chairs, also garbage, is going to get a coat of black paint.  I think that will spiff it up nicely.  The white table in the middle is going to be converted into an ottoman…a winter project.  The golden chairs are something I actually purchased.  $30 for the pair.  Some may think I’ve been ripped off, but I actually like these chairs and they are very sturdy.  I will recover the seats with new fabric this winter also.

Did I mention the rug came from the garbage?  Yes, an old lady was done with it and it came to live in my living room.

It’s ridiculous isn’t it?  I just can’t stop myself from going out on garbage night.  It all started when I was walking the dog and I found this fabulous old window I was going to decorate with.  I made FringeMan go back with me to get it, but it wouldn’t fit in the car.  I still regret not walking home with it.


This little set-up isn’t staying in the living room.  The table is going to be painted black and is making it’s way upstairs to my bedside.  The wooden folding chairs will probably go on the porch or just remain folded for extra seating.  The wire hanging from the wall is temporary of course.  A work in progress.

My question for you is what kind of curtains would you hang in this living room?  I’ve got three long windows with 10 foot ceilings.  I think I’ll actually have to buy curtains since I limit myself to picking obvious garbage.  I don’t actually rummage through cans or bags.  You can all breath a sigh of relief.  I do shop in stores from time to time.

Please visit Sanctuary Arts at Home and Between Naps on the Porch for more great Before and Afters!

For even more up-to-date photos of my living room, click HERE.


35 thoughts on “A Recycler at Heart

  1. Pingback: The Bedroom – Behind Closed Doors « the domestic fringe

  2. Rita

    This looks sooo eclectic and chic…such urban flair. You have a great eye for combining this and that and making it all come together to create a harmonious space. Thanks for sharing your talent.

    Stop by and see my lovely transformation and don’t forget to see yesterday’s post too!!!…My papa’s hand-painted frescoes from the cathedrals of Southern Italy!

    And if you like what you see, don’t forget to click the “Follow” button so that we can inspire each other often!

  3. cindy

    I think the room looks awesome! I’d do very minimalist curtains unless you need privacy. I could see just using white muslin draped and slightly puddled on the floor…possibly just clipped to a simple black rod right at ceiling height.
    Can’t wait to see what else you do with your room :O)

  4. nannykim

    ps. I have an antique uplight only it is black. We do use the new light bulbs but it was not retrofitted for it, but the bulb helps hold the thing in place because when my hubby tried to fix the wire he couldn’t replace the switch unit for some reason and it resulted in a wobblyness ;-)—so the new bulbs work to hold it better. I plugged it into a power strip and we turn the light on and off using the strip!

  5. nannykim

    I am now wondering where you live? When we lived in NJ we could find good stuff on garbage day. But here where I live in SC you rarely see nice stuff. I love the chair and the rug!! I like the way you have painted the room . I actually like the windows bare!! They are pretty windows!

  6. Pingback: Food, Fun, Finds, & Photos « the domestic fringe

  7. DJ

    Love it, Love it, Love it!
    Wish our community had that kind of “garbage”, honey!
    All that work you put into your home, and it looks GREAT!
    You must be so proud.
    Pat yourself on the back for me~

  8. robinaltman

    You are truly amazing. Unfortunately, if that were my room I would take pictures and e mail them to you and ask you what kind of curtains I should get. Thus, I am no help at all.

    That room looks awesome!!!

  9. Dani Joy

    I am sooooo impressed! You would make a great gypsy and missionary, girl!
    This brought things into perspective for me. Thanxs.
    You are doing a great job! I got to see the preview on FB and now it´s really great to get the running commentary with it. Ya´ll sure are brave!

  10. Debbie York

    I got two words for you…Ikea and Target! Great places to look for curtains at a fraction of the cost. I’d probably go with white for a really clean look. I think that’s where you’re going and I love it. Another thought is matchstick rollup shades. I used these in my kitchen and it’s dramatic without breaking the bank.
    I love all the chairs…all five of them. I would have hurt you trying to beat you to the leather chair. That is a great find…I don’t care if it did come off the curb. Whoever left it there was “walking stupid”! Aren’t you glad?
    You’re doing a wonderful job!

  11. Mom

    I would go with gold sheer curtains to pick up the color in that amazing rug! With a gold sheer the beautiful sunshine will come through and you will want plenty of that very soon as the days get dark and dreary.

  12. Debra Cripps

    I totally love that leather chair! Your room is turning really well. We dumpster dive too but have never come up with anything as fabulous as your things. Keep on doing it!

  13. Pilar

    Love the rug!!!!

    For the curtains i woul pick a couple of the colors of the rug. I love red, and you have red in the chair and rug, so i would pick up those two colors and find something with it. Maybe with some other earthy color in it too…. not sure…. if not just red i think would look great….. oh, if i could only explain myself…. i am a decorating geek!! Love it!!!

  14. Herb of Grace

    I’d go with something heavy and luxurious in a darker red to chocolate color. Tie in that rug… You can afford the weight and the color, with those white walls. You’re right, they turned out great!

  15. Mindy

    Yes. The free leather chair rocks. But, I am loving the $30 pair of gold chairs. Great lines! As for curtains, either a funky barkcloth (look on ebay) or go to your local nursery and buy some burlap. Make your own curtains with a simple stitch…or clothes pins that you find in the trash! ~Mindy

  16. Rachel

    Oh my goodness I am cracking up! I LOVE that you decorate your house with garbage and it looks awesome!

    I’d do the same thing too, if I lived in the northeast. Down here, you really don’t want to pick up anyone’s garbage. NOT a good idea. 🙂

  17. Rachel @ CalledtoGrow

    Love it, love it, love it! That room is beautifully eclectic.
    Funny your second sentence was the epitome of my mother for years…my brother and I were mortified as we lived in a moderately affluent neighborhood, but she was thrifty. She had the neighborhoods all staked out and would drive really slow (stalker pace) through the hoods weekly. I am sure there were times she really regretted not having a truck.
    It is pretty amazing some of the things people throw away, and amazing that people like you find them! 🙂

  18. Jeannie

    you are so talented. you’re the only person i know that can reform a table or chair in no time flat. i’m sure your projects will be done while the fringekids are safely at school, away from the paint fumes.

  19. KathyB!

    This is awesome! I’ve picked adirondack chairs, kids trikes and such and an odd side table… but you find all sorts of goodies.

    Sadly, I can’t help with curtains. I can’t decorate to save my life. I get overwhelmed and choose… Nothing!

  20. Janna Qualman

    I’m impressed, and I love it! And I’ll own up to bringing home some “free” stuff from our neighborhood dump, too. *high five*

    I say get curtains that will pop with colors from the floor rug (which is great, by the way). Have fun!

  21. David

    What a remarkable transformation! And to think you did it mostly with free stuff! My grandparents used to have a little plaque hanging in their bathroom that said, “We’ve done so much with so little for so long that we’re now convinced we can do anything with nothing in no time flat.”

  22. caprik

    You have a good eye for trash pickin’!

    I am AMAZED what people throw out, it’s sinful.

    I especially like the chair and tables you have found. As far as curtains, I can’t help you there. I have no curtains, except our the bedroom. Room darkening.
    Some valances, and blinds if I need them. I like a lot of light.

  23. Jill

    You have a wonderful eye for things. My husband pulled a couch and loveseat out of someone’s garbage when we first got married. I didn’t sit in our living room for nine months. I’m stunned at the treasures you’ve uncovered!

  24. Nina in Portugal

    I don’t have an ounce of creativity in my bones.

    I would never have bought that house. I’m one of those that would pay too much for a house after someone like you came in a re-did it.

    You have a gift…a knack….and now, a really cute living room!

  25. Chrissy

    As I heard on TV tonight, on Amazing Wedding Cakes on We, “I bow to your genious.” Seriously…your room looks really cool, like this eclectic chic room that has a bit of vintage and a ton of charm. Love your leather chair…personally, I would buy leather cleaner and conditioner, just for my own peace of mind. We got our black leather couch off Craig’s list and I cleaned the whole thing with leather cleaner, then conditioned it. It makes it looks nice, as well as cleans it. The “cleans” it part is what was important to me 🙂
    I’m impressed Tricia. As far as curtains…keep with the same vintage feel..since the room is so white, I would go with a rich color that ties in all those reds you have floating around. That will help warm it up. Keep the pictures coming. Good job…gold star for you.


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