There’s no sacrificing style for sustainability in Vail. Buying used, consignment and repurposed furniture and accessories keeps money in your pocket and waste out of the landfill.
The lifecycle continues at Thrifty Shops
When shoppers fail to scoop up those hidden gems at the valley’s local consignment store and Habitat ReStore, those items are usually donated to Vail Valley Cares Thrifty Shops in Edwards and Eagle, making it a hot spot for bargain and treasure hunters alike.
Proceeds from merchandise sold at the Thrifty Shops fund annual community grants that support Eagle Valley-based charitable organizations. Thanks to the efforts of donors and shoppers last year, the Thrifty Shops and Vail Valley Cares awarded 31 valley-based charitable organizations a total of $275,000 in contributions.
Donated items that don’t make it to the Thrifty Shops sales floors are passed on to the ARC Thrift Stores, located along the Front Range, where their lifecycle continues. ARC’s non-sellable items are bundled and placed on ocean freighters bound for third world countries, where they help create work and income, and where they’ll be re-used and re-purposed, reducing both local and global waste.
Sustainability and saving money are two ideas that often align. When you practice the three Rs of green living – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – what’s good for the planet is usually good for your wallet, too.
When it comes to home décor, the connection between being green and saving green couldn’t be clearer. It also reduces waste, keeping items that might otherwise be thrown away out of the landfill. The planet thanks you.
And for the lucky shoppers in the Vail Valley, there’s an added bonus to buying used. Many of the home furnishings that wind up in our local thrifty stores and consignment shops come from the population of multi-million dollar second homes. This means high-end wares for a low-end price. So there’s no sacrificing style for sustainability.
Tap into your inner designer at Habitat restore
Alan Holub estimates he spent no more than $400 at Habitat
ReStore in Eagle to remodel his entire kitchen. That dollar amount includes lighting, fixtures, appliances and furniture. So how did it turn out? Well, it’s the kind of kitchen that’s photographed in a glossy magazine.
“My friends tell me I’m in the wrong business,” Holub says of his design skills. “I have an eye for this kind of stuff. I enjoy interior design, architecture. I’m a big fan of This Old House, Antique Roadshow, I DVR all that stuff.”
Habitat ReStore, located in Caddis Corner across from Costco,
collects donated furniture, appliances and reusable (sometimes brand new) building materials and sells them at a deeply discounted price to raise money to build affordable homes for families “in need of a hand up, not a hand out,” Tom McKay says, the ReStore Director. In the process, the ReStore diverts approximately 300 tons of materials each year from the Eagle County landfill.
Most of the coveted, high-end donations stem from remodels or complete home deconstructions, to make room, literally, from the ground up for new digs. A recent Ritz-Carlton upgrade sent the ReStore 150, three-year-old, low-flow flushing toilets. Brand new the toilets cost $450. The ReStore sold them for 50 bucks a pop.
The best of the donations ReStore advertises, McKay says, in the paper, on Facebook and on its website (www.habitatvailvalley.org/restore).
Alan Holub, who remodeled his kitchen thanks to the Habitat store, says the key to shopping at Habitat is to be flexible, clear the head and imagine the possibilities. And you have to be willing to visit often, as inventory changes daily.
Holub knew he wanted a commercial look after receiving stainless steel counters from a neighbor who owned a restaurant. For the kitchen island, he wanted a piece of industrial equipment, something like a large workbench or an airline baggage cart. What he found was an executive desk, one that retails for $3000 that he bought for $35. (Something he learned from a quick Internet search on his smart phone, a tip he recommends to anyone shopping at ReStore.)
Holub stained the executive desk, raised it up on 8-inch wheels, put trim on it and clear coated “the living day lights out of it” to make it really shine. Then, he plopped his electric stovetop range right in the middle, which fit perfectly. The resulting look — with the room’s intentionally exposed conduit – is what Holub describes as “commercial retro.” The island is his cornerstone; he built the rest of the room’s décor around it. Adding to the retro style, he furnished the living and dining areas in all white furniture. He wasn’t shopping for all white at the ReStore, Holub says, but the white furniture ended up being the best quality, so he went for it.
“It feels good to utilize what’s already there. When you’re crafty, you can make something great out of something that in the long run would potentially end up in the landfill,” Holub says.
Another Eagle resident outfitted her kitchen from Habitat finds, too, and her cornerstone piece was a commercial range that featured side-by-side ovens and more gas burners than a traditional residential range would have. She’s a major cook, so it was the most important component to the new kitchen. The range retails at $8000, but she bought it for $1700.
“When you’re shopping at Habitat, you should ask where things come from because then you have an idea of how much it was used,” she says. “It came from a caretaker unit in Vail. It was the chef’s kitchen, so I know it didn’t get used much.”
The creativity is what thrills this homeowner when shopping at Habitat. She wanted her kitchen to have a bit of a commercial feel, yet at the same time, light and bright (and a little bit Scandinavian, too). Her unique finds shape the style, like an antique hutch, which warm the crisp white cabinets and industrial stainless steel appliances. What she didn’t find at the ReStore she picked up at local consignment shops Nest and Treasures, like the barstools that surround the kitchen island and the antique pot rack that hangs above.
“Being eclectic is a fun way to decorate,” she says.
Don’t throw it out, sell it at Consignment
Another alternative to buying brand new is shopping at consignment stores. Consignment is when a shop sells the owner’s goods for a percentage of the sale. As a buyer, you benefit from 40- to 60-percent off retail price for items that are usually in very good condition, and typically, the price goes down the longer the item stays in the store. As a seller, you benefit from making money on stuff you no longer want. The planet benefits, of course, because it increases the lifecycle of our home wares.
Like the Habitat ReStore, local consignment shops – Nest in Avon and Treasures in Avon, Eagle and Minturn – see an ever-revolving inventory of sofas, dining room tables, paintings, chandeliers, bedroom sets, lamps, wine glasses, dishware and much more, circle through from the second home community.
“We get new inventory in all the time. If there’s a lot of design work going on, if real estate is busy, or when people close on a home in Beaver Creek, they call us and say, ‘Come and get everything,’” Patty Cuny says, owner of Nest. “We are a good deal, but we are also higher quality merchandize that people can buy to accentuate their home with.”
Treasures focuses on specialty home furniture and accessories, “interesting and unusual, and we dabble in antiques,” owner Lynne Schlepper says. “You can find extraordinary pieces, like a jewelry box from Calcutta.”
Schlepper says shoppers are getting a good bargain, but consignment is about more than that, especially in the Vail Valley.
“You find something unique, and it’s about the experience,” she says. “Consignment is not for everyone, but I feel more and more people look that way because in this valley, so many people get rid of really lovely items.”
Artful New Life
Beyond recycling is an idea called “upcycling.” It’s when someone takes used or waste materials and repurposes them into something new and exciting, useful, and usually, more valuable, too, so shoppers can expect to pay more for it. With an eye on the environment, the upcycle trend has hit furniture and home accessories, along with art for the home.
The Scarab in Minturn showcases a collection of furniture, home and personal accessories upcycled and handmade by artisans. Shop the floor and you’ll find treasures such as a lamp fashioned from industrial parts, like metal coils and gears, or containers made from old tires or a dragonfly created from a wrench. But the real dramatic piece is a large industrial fan that was repurposed by Vail Manufacturing into a lazy-susan table, complete with red skateboard wheels to make it spin.
“Old things have such a great quality to them. Maybe we don’t need an old fan, but to destroy or get rid of it seems like such a waste. The shapes and quality of materials from the 1800s you just can’t find today. I love to see it come to life in a modern home and have function and purpose. To see it evolve is so exciting,” says Jane Rohr, owner of the Scarab.
Artist Bates Wilson, featured at the Vail International Gallery, is also drawn to the idea of rebirth. He creates sculptures out of new and raw materials, such as sheet aluminum or steel, as well as items he purchases at salvage yards, eBay and Craig’s List. Despite the sculpture’s stationary reality, Wilson’s pieces capture motion. His fish jump and squirm, his iconic flags wave and birds take flight. He also creates some “functional” pieces for the home, like lamps, loungers and cabinets.
“The contrast between the material and the piece is key,” Wilson says of his pieces dynamic nature. “When you take something rigid and abused, like reclaimed materials, and turn it into a fluid, newly born, actualized piece, it means that reinvention is possible, a rebirth is possible. The goal is to take that which has been discarded or viewed in a certain way and make it new, better than it’s inception.”
Society as a whole seems fed up with disposable goods. Reducing, reusing and recycling is not a new idea. Hopefully for the earth’s sake, reducing, reusing, recycling and repurposing takes hold and becomes part of the American mold.