AdviceDumpdecorDumpster finds

Dumpster Finds, and What We Do With ThemDumpster Diver Decor by MmeExxxedrin

Dumpster Finds, and What We Do With Them

How can one attain fabulousness in Fairbanks? As we all know, shopping for any kind of style is hard here in the land of Carhart's and Bunny Boots. The rich simply flit to Anchorage or Seattle to shop, or buy things through mail order catalogs. We (

Mme. Exxxedrin & Auntie Adddville) are not in that income bracket however. We do our shopping with the rest of the wily peasants in Fairbanks, at the

transfer sites where rural residents dump their garbage. We also get raw materials at the various emporiums de junk such as Value Village, Builder's Bargains, and Salvation Army. The real trick is to turn the trash into home design objects worthy of divadom.The first step is to find your raw material. While occasionally we have found items like a working or an antique , generally one has to stretch the imagination to find utility, much less design flair in dumpster objects. One must generally view objects not as what they are, but what they can be. For example, these two items,

PhotoalbumDumpdive2Mvc-024f.jpg a small dirty Chinese carpet and a 1970's wrought iron lamp shade were less than prepossessing when found. The rug was dirty and odoriferous, the shade was attached to lots of broken lamp bits and frayed wires. The carpet could be made useful again by simple cleaning. We laid it on the lawn and went at it with a hose and soapy water until it's odor left us.

(My favorite decorating book)

PhotoalbumDdd14Mvc-022f.jpg The lamp was more complex. First all the lamp parts had to be extracted. Then the shade was spray painted with white enamel,

PhotoalbumAugust1999gardenMvc-024f.jpg and afterwards inverted and affixed to a short pillar that was the base of a broken plastic bird bath.

PhotoalbumDdd4Mvc-004f.jpg Then hardware cloth (old window screening would do as well) was put inside the shade to allow dirt and plants to be put in. The result, a rather excessive Victorian style garden planter.

PhotoalbumAugust1999gardenMvc-011f.jpg What we have here is another lamp makeover. This is the top of a 1930's torchiere lamp that was bereft of it's shade. Attached to it is a simple wire frame made in the 1960's in order to be fabric covered, and hung as a Tiffany shaped swag lamp. I took the rotted fabric off the swag lamp shade and inverted it to make the torchiere into a large poppy shape fixture. Then I twisted a few dozen old artificial flowers around the wires of the shade to make a bouquet lamp.

Old chairs are another favorite item in dumpsters.

PhotoalbumDdd5Mvc-003f.jpg This dining room chair was discarded with two others at the Old Steese/ Farmer's Loop East transfer site. It's finish was worn, and it's seat cover was both tacky and dirty. I found a yard and 1/2 of fabric at @160x120.jpg Hands All Around

that went with our kitchen and Auntie Adddvil sanded and painted the chair with two of the leftover wall paints of our kitchen.

PhotoalbumDdd11Mvc-011f.jpg The finished chairs match our decor better than anything we could buy in town, and cost only about $12 for the fabric of all three.


On an exceptional day in late summer we went to all the transfer sites and found the following: A stack of 1970's magazines which we butchered for decoupage images, cans of

paint for refinishing projects,

frames which we will paint to match each room decor and use to hold prints, a glass lamp shade that will make a good planter, a stack of plastic clam shells, cake covers, and pans that we use to cast garden

stepping stones in, a water bed headboard that also makes a good planter, a stack of suspended ceiling/lamp plastic sheets to make into a green house next year, wire interlocking shelves, garden lath trellis, big heavy 1970's sun floor tiles (garden stones again), lots of broken and awful dishes we smash to make mosaic tiles for

stepping stones, books, audio tapes, a rodent enclosure with all accessories, plain glass and china mugs, gravy boat and compote which we will use for china painting projects, a silk shirt for our

Garden Boy, misc. other clothes, and several small potted trees. This time of year you should make an effort to find things to use all winter in craft projects for the home.

The best time for dumpster diving in Fairbanks is on clear sunny Sundays near the beginning and end of summer. These are the days that most people do the most house cleaning where they decide to throw out good stuff. However we have found good things on weekdays, rainy days, and snowy days in mid Summer and Winter as well. The important thing is to go often and to take your time when you do. Bring good junk of your own that you no longer use, and share your garbage like happiness.

Go on to see where the

Transfer sites of Fairbanks are.

PhotoalbumDdd8Mvc-016f.jpg Unprepossessing objects like these old magazines, partial cans of paint, and empty picture frames are found constantly at transfer sites and overlooked by most divers. However the paints can be used to redo old furniture and

paint your walls weird, the magazines can be cut up like

junk mail and used to cover walls, light plates, line drawers, and decorate furniture.

Frames are the thing that makes a home stop looking like a college dorm, and start looking civilized, and are easy to refurbish.


PhotoalbumDdd8Mvc-012f.jpgThese are all items we pick up for the

UAF Costume Shop where we work. Contrary to some misguided legislator's opinions, UAF is hopelessly underfunded. We at Theatre UAF make it a policy to dumpster dive for things that we can use to make costumes, saving our department money. In the first picture is a plastic pom-pom which can be used like ostrich feathers in a hat as decoration, suspenders (use obvious), a nerf paddle which can be made into a base for a large fan or hand mirror, a baseball cap, which we use as an adjustable base for stabilizing turbans, veils, and other types of unstable headwear. The second picture shows a quantity of ethafoam, normally used to make channels for wire in poured concrete. In the costume shop we use it to make antennae, jewelry, cartoon-like hair, and trim garments.

PhotoalbumDdd8Mvc-019f.jpg This old milk glass lamp shade will made a great planter or punch bowl in our home.

PhotoalbumDdd8Mvc-006f.jpg These table legs, massive and hand carved are being stripped and saved for a future summer project of making a small "Victorian" greenhouse. We will put them end to end with a filler cylinder in the center and make a pair of pillars for the front entry.

PhotoalbumDdd8Mvc-017f.jpg Cinderblocks, rocks and bricks get gathered over time then stacked with a metal cooking grille into a small outdoor barbecue.



PhotoalbumDdd8Mvc-013f.jpg This cold frame, used for starting sprouts early in Spring, is made from two kitchen drawers and an old window. The drawers have the bottom and one side each knocked out, then the loose sides are used to extend the frame size to the width of the window.

PhotoalbumDdd8Mvc-005f.jpg This waterbed headboard with shelves is set on it's back and will be painted white to match the planters above. Then it will get filled with flowers.

PhotoalbumDdd12Mvc-001f.jpg Planter made of dumpster find (waterbed headboard) set on it's side, painted, and decorated with foam "stone" house number holders sold very cheap in a clearance sale at Michael's.

PhotoalbumDumpdive2Mvc-020f.jpg Auntie Adddvil found this vintage

Chinese Checker board

in a dumpster. Now all we need is 60 marbles. We are thinking of inserting it into a side table we found with cracked veneer.

Chinese Checker board


A stack of curtain rods inspired this temporary Summer cat enclosure, built like a tent. Holes were drilled by our Garden Boy into the porch railing, the rods dropped into the holes, then plastic mesh was stapled to the railings and rods to make an easy to break down tent.




PhotoalbumDdd16Mvc-022f.jpg Magazine and other small racks often are found in dumpsters and can be useful for containerizing the effluvia of your life.

PhotoalbumDdd16Mvc-021f.jpg Old pillows also are to be found everywhere. Just throw them in the washer and drier and cover them with a new rectangle of fabric. We use the scraps of the chair recovering project (above) for the two matching pillows on the ends.




PhotoalbumDdd4Mvc-004f.jpg For making a planter, Auntie Adddville found this dead lamp, and Mme. Exxxedrin found the base of a broken plastic bird bath. Auntie Adddville is spraying the lamp shade white to match the base, before inverting it on top of the base. The bottom (former top) of the shade is then filled with bits of window screening and/or hardware cloth to hold in dirt.

PhotoalbumAugust1999gardenMvc-008f.jpg This

beveled glass

lamp somebody threw out because one of the bulb bases had stopped functioning. All that was wrong was a tiny amount of corrosion stopping electrical contact. Once it was wiped clean it installed easily and works now. These sorts of lamps sell for $30-35 in local stores.

beveled glass Bed side cabinet made from two side pieces of a broken coffee table stacked on top of each other and surmounted with a chess board as cover.



PhotoalbumPrideparadeMvc-007f.jpg These colorful canisters formerly housed filmstrips and slide sets for Fundamentalist Christian preschool lessons. They are useful for sorting and containing small items like beads, and look beautiful on a shelf.

PhotoalbumDumpdive2Mvc-023f.jpg We are learning how to do Gallery Glass

fake stained glass work. One of the items we intend to decorate are our shower doors. Since the decoration process takes days, or even weeks for a large project, we decided to pick up these shower doors as a transfer site and do the stained glass work on them. When it is done we will switch doors, this saves us days of being unable to use our shower while the work is in progress.

PhotoalbumDdd17Mvc-001f.jpg Plastic flags from a car lot decorate our front yard when we hold a party. The flags tell your guests where the part is, as well as look festive.

PhotoalbumAugust1999gardenMvc-011f.jpg This lamp was made by twisting artificial flowers around a wire shade base intended for fabric.

PhotoalbumDdd15Mvc-025f.jpg Kitchen basket made into a planter with the addition of window screening and dirt.

PhotoalbumDumpdive1Mvc-008f.jpg This wrought iron planter base gives our cheap sprinkler a better range.



PhotoalbumDdd9Mvc-006f.jpg The chair is transformed with leftover kitchen trim paint.

PhotoalbumDdd8Mvc-001f.jpg These three tiny trees are one of our best finds. Trees bought at nurseries here are very expensive, and these little weedy trees will save us cash.

PhotoalbumDdd8Mvc-002f.jpg This bottomless drawer gets hardware cloth (big metal mesh) found in another dumpster stapled to the bottom. We can then use the frame to separate gravel from sand. This means we can get both gravel and sand for free at one of the various abandoned pits, instead of at a builder's supply

PhotoalbumDdd12Mvc-004f.jpg Urn made of dead lamp base with electrics removed, and inverted to make wide base the urn mouth.

PhotoalbumJune1999homedecorMvc-015f.jpg This tired gray-green deco scale from a dumpster still works. It soon will get the paint treatment to match the bath room decor.

Product Links

The Mosaic Book : Ideas, Projects and Techniques The Mosaic Book : Ideas, Projects and Techniques

Stenciling on a Grand Scale : Using Simple Stencils to Create Visual Magic Stenciling on a Grand Scale : Using Simple Stencils to Create Visual Magic

Debbie Travis' Painted House: Stenciling Made Easy Debbie Travis' Painted House: Stenciling Made Easy

Pad: The Guide to Ultra-Living Pad: The Guide to Ultra-Living

The Art of Faux : The Complete Sourcebook of Decorative Painted Finishes The Art of Faux : The Complete Sourcebook of Decorative Painted Finishes

How to Make Rustic Garden Furniture How to Make Rustic Garden Furniture

Stained Glass For Beginners Stained Glass For Beginners

Mosaics : Inspiration and Original Projects for Interiors and Exteriors Mosaics : Inspiration and Original Projects for Interiors and Exteriors

Debbie Travis' Painted House: Paint Finishes for Furniture Made Easy

Debbie Travis' Painted House: Decorating with Paint Made Easy Debbie Travis' Painted House: Decorating with Paint Made Easy

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