Old Things, New Usage; Artisans Recycle Discarded Wood, Metal Objects into Eye-Catching Accents
Byline: Christian Toto, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Everything old is new again once Gloria Capron gets her hands on it. The head of Gloria Capron Interior Design in Kensington takes discarded items such as rusty window grates and forgotten barn wood and transforms them into elegant furniture and accent pieces.
Ms. Capron's recycling touch doesn't apply just to rustic interiors. She also can bring a touch of the old into contemporary settings straight out of an Ikea catalog.
Clever homeowners can follow Ms. Capron's lead and, with a dollop of imagination and care, bring new life to discarded iron, stone and wood.
Her house is chockablock with recycled wonders - coffee tables fashioned from metal window grates and topped by glass, old church decorations doubling as wall art and windowsills crammed with re-purposed decor, their bumps and irregularities more than welcome.
Often, she does nothing to these pieces beyond judiciously placing them around the house.
"I like to have them 'as is' if I can," she says.
The interior designer helps clients with both contemporary and classical traditions, but she takes special delight in dropping an antique piece into a modern home for the ultimate accent.
Items such as Ms. Capron's zinc sculpture, with its copper patina adding a crush of color, can enhance nearly any home - with a little bit of creative daring.
"People find it very difficult to blend the old and the new. It takes a trained eye to pull it all together," she says.
Ms. Capron also combines old items into one finished piece, such as a generously sized table outside her kitchen made from unwanted barn wood and old Victorian house parts, topped by tile.
Most of her home's windows are decorated not with draperies, but with window grates.
"I love silhouettes and the way the light comes through them," she says.
Homeowners can hit their local antique shop for similar items, she says, often at reasonable prices. Dealers, not seeing the potential such random pieces have, might charge little for such items. They may be happy to have the space for more established antiques, Ms. Capron says.
She also hits salvage yards for material and keeps her eyes open for possibilities on road trips. One such trip detoured to an old silo where she picked up a dilapidated decorative column that now stands in her home.
A handful of artisans appearing each weekend at Eastern Market in Southeast also rely on recycling to create their wares.
Riverdale Park artisan Luke Loy recalls seeing heaps of abandoned machinery gears and cogs around his childhood home, a farm north of St. Louis. Today, he uses old chains, wrenches and gears - many of which come from older farms - to create unique clocks and tables.
An engineer by trade, Mr. Loy says the various metal pieces can be unforgiving. Attaching different metals together can be a chore, he says, and some pieces have rusted over time.
"Sometimes things are fragile. Cast-iron pieces may shatter" if dropped, he says.
Metal parts are hard to find locally, so he takes occasional trips to Amish country in Pennsylvania and relies on a friend who lives in North Carolina to scour local farm auctions for scrap metal.
Another Eastern Market artist, Alexandria photographer Paige Ireland, discovered last year that her recycled wood frames were drawing as much interest as her prints.
The idea to use discarded wood for her frames took hold while she was standing near a Capitol Hill Dumpster.
"We snagged a bunch [of wood], and I started teaching myself carpentry," Ms. Ireland says.
Using the scrap wood for her frames became "something I could do without a major investment, would be unique and would honor the wood," she says. So she began to create frames made from the wood, often culled from old wooden floors. …