Outdoor Style Using Recycled Materials

Easy Projects for Giving Your Outdoor Area a Fresh Look

Old Boots Make Whimsical PlantersGive some character to your outdoor area this summer, in an affordable and eco-friendly way. Here are some tips:

* An old, scratched up bundt pan makes a fun planter that fits around the center of your picnic table umbrella. With a hammer and nail, punch a couple of drainage holes on the bottom. Decorate the outside of the pan with metal paints, markers, or old scraps of wallpaper. Plant a few colorful blooming annuals and drop your umbrella down the center of the planter (and the table), and you’ve got an inexpensive centerpiece that doesn’t take up any room on the table.

* Old, bent, mismatched silverware and some fishing line comes together to make a unique wind chime. If you have a drill, you can drill holes in the handles of each piece of silverware and hang them at different lengths (but close enough to knock together) from a branch or awning rail. If you don’t have a drill, use pliers to bend the spoons and forks so that you can tie them up with the fishing line. Try adding an old silver ladle, twisted pickle fork, and a holloware butter knife for a variety of chimes!

* Collect chipped and broken dishes or pottery from friends and create a new mosaic tabletop for a patio table. If you don’t have enough broken pieces to cover the tabletop, you could create a mosaic tray using a wooden tray frame, to carry dishes from the patio to the kitchen, or create your own pavers. You can use food coloring to tint the cement you use around the broken pieces to add color and design. For more specific details, click here.

* Instead of buying expensive shade sails or awnings to help diffuse the hot summer sun, create your own! Simply buy yardage of ripstop outdoor fabric from your local fabric or outdoor supply store, cut into the desired triangular shape, attach grommets to each corner, and secure tightly with rope or cabled wire to trees or posts in your yard. Sew simple cushions with the leftover fabric to coordinate. To learn more, click here.

* Kids will love helping to make a bird feeder from an old milk carton. Wash a clean milk carton and cut a square hole in the side big enough for a bird to jump in and out. For a perch, glue a couple of popsicle sticks into a slot under the opening. Use more popsicle sticks to build a “roof” on the house, and color with non-toxic paints or markers. Pour some millet, sunflower seed, and crushed peanuts inside. Hang from a branch near your window so you can watch the birds snack.

Take a minute to look around your house, and you’ll probably find other ideas for taking things you already have and using them outdoors in a new way. Let us know what you find!

Written by Deb Hiett

Deb Hiett spent several years in New York City, where she was an actress, dancer, musician, and playwright. In reviewing her first original one-woman show, The Village Voice called her "the bold new voice in solo . . . a sure-shot writer." Her work has won The Carl Cherry Center for the Arts “One on One” Writing Competition and The Western Stage's “Starving Artist” Playwriting prize, and her short stories have appeared in several literary journals.

Deb’s love of writing married her passion for healthful, organic, and environmentally-conscious living once she moved to Los Angeles a few years ago. She has spent the past year planning her wedding, writing screenplays, and applying a variety of broad-spectrum sunscreens.

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