The Washington Post

Re-purposeful decor: home designers, too, can reduce, reuse and recycle

 By Janet Bennett Kelly

0428 TR6 silo_r1
GoodWood in Washington carries many items for the eco-conscious home decorator.

Don’t have enough time and/or money to invest in geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels and other items featured in the WP Magazine story about LEED homes? Not to worry — decorating can be another satisfying way to go green. Reclamation is sweeping its way through the design world: Doors, windows, siding, shutters and hardware from demolished buildings are being rescued before they are dumped in landfills, while designers with a passion for the past are repurposing old furniture and accessories.

Green designer and consultant Topher Paterno uses these criteria for judging the eco-friendliness of decor: Is it reclaimed, repurposed, recyclable, renewable or have green intent? As for where to find it, Paterno, who owns Pazzo Verde, an eco-sensitive design, building and consulting company based in Washington, offers these sourcing tips: 1. Look for reclaimed doors, flooring and kitchen cabinets from salvage companies such as Community Forklift and Second Chance. 2. When shopping online, use “eco” as one of your search terms. 3. Frequent thrift stores to find furniture and recycle it. “It can be less expensive to reupholster an old couch than to buy a new one.”

Anna Kahoe would add another category to Paterno’s list of sources: antiques stores. “What could be more eco-friendly than a store filled with vintage and antique furniture?” she asks. To further cut down on environmental impact, Kahoe, co-proprietor of GoodWood on U Street NW, gathers her inventory from places no farther away than three hours.

The store is a tableau of planet-friendly items, including decomposition books (with 100 percent post-consumer-waste recycled pages manufactured in a mill powered by methane captured from a local landfill). Kahoe also shows customers how to reinvent antiques in a modern way: A feed bin can get new life as a bookcase; a factory cart with wheels can be a coffee table; and a library card catalogue, a jewelry box.

Eager to get looking? Here are some striking, eco-friendly items.


0428 TR2 silo_r1 Courtesy of Design Within Reach

Made from plastic recycled from beverage bottles, the soft but sturdy Restore Basket by Finnish designer Mika Tolvanen can contain the clutter of newspapers and magazines as well as firewood and toys. Also available in red, gray and bright blue. $99 at Design Within Reach, 4828 St. Elmo Ave., Bethesda, and


0428 TR1 silo_r2 Courtesy West Elm

Birch branches gathered in the forest were used to make the twiggy legs of West Elm’s side table (in blackened metal or silver finish). Suitable for setting down drinks in a living room or books by the bedside. $249 at




0428 TR4 silo_r1 Courtesy Peg and Awl

Slice and dice produce on Peg and Awl’s cutting board made of reclaimed oak and fitted with aged steel boat cleat handles. When the hand-rubbed wood loses its luster, swab on a fresh dose of olive oil. From $80-$120, depending on size, at GoodWood, 1428 U St. NW, 202-986-3640.


0428 TR NEW replace 5_r1 Courtesy Terrain

Greet guests at the door with this 32-by-18-inch striped mat. Made  from recycled float-rope once used by Maine lobstermen, it traps dirt and sand, is mold- and mildew-resistant, and will help keep pounds and pounds of rope out of landfills. $68 at



0428 TR3 silo_r1 Courtesy Anna Kahoe/GoodWood


When Kahoe discovered Blithe and Bonny’s Grapefruit Eco Dish Soap in a repurposed wine bottle, she immediately put it on her marble farmhouse sink. “I entertain a lot, and I like the look of it,” Kahoe says. Plus, it lasts forever and cuts grease, she notes. $21 at GoodWood,1428 U St. NW, 202-986-3640.




Follow the Magazine on Twitter.

0428Cover_image_1024w For more Spring Home & Design articles, as well as features such as Date Lab, Gene Weingarten and more, visit WP Magazine.

Like us on Facebook.

E-mail us at




Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Video curated for you.
Next Story
Jessica Goldstein · April 24, 2013