There is something special about a well-designed product, especially when they are designed with found items that carry a little age and perhaps even some history. On the other hand, their mass produced, carbon copy counterparts are not only uninspiring, they also produce a carbon footprint that the Jolly Green Giant’s feet couldn’t fill. The design of unique products with reclaimed or recycled items is a thriving enterprise; small businesses all over the city are resurrecting these goods for their second coming. Here are a few pieces of inspiration meant to encourage the support of local businesses that believe in sustainable (and stylish) consumption.
917 E. 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA. 90013
In a former A1 Flour Mill building located in the Arts District lies one of the coolest custom furniture shop and design studios in Downtown L.A. District Millworks specializes in fabricating furniture using 90% reclaimed wood and salvaged materials, such as old military surplus for upholstery. They liken sourcing wood to a treasure hunt; it comes from all over the U.S. such as abandoned railroad depot lumber from Alabama, barn wood from Ohio and old bowling alley lanes from a supplier.
Not only is using reclaimed wood sustainable, it creates character, beauty and an interesting aesthetic that is unmatched. In one piece, they found a bee tunnel with a dried out bee inside; this ended up becoming part of a picture frame. In their wine barrel pieces, the stain is naturally occurring from the wine over time. They found sugar pine trees that fell during the forest fires at a country club near Lake Arrowhead. From this, they created 20-feet slabs with live edges intact and made beds and dramatic dining tables out of them.
The team at this awe-inspiring studio is guided by the goal of making their business and products most sustainable in ways of all sizes that create big impact. Visit their studio, or admire their pieces in restaurants and retail boutiques throughout Los Angeles including Rebecca Minkoff and Bestia.
(Sold at Melrose Trading Post)
Fairfax High School Lot
7850 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Melrose Trading Post, you’ll find Tiffany Allison and her family selling jewelry repurposed from bullet casings, vintage locker tags, safety deposit box tags and other interesting pieces of American history. The company started in Detroit, where Tiffany saw treasure in what others may have perceived as trash. In closed schools, for example, she would discover things such as vintage locker tags that made beautiful one-of-a-kind pieces to adorn necklines. You’ll love the necklace with a miniature harmonica repurposed as a pendant. It makes for a great conversation piece, especially when someone asks if it actually works. It does.
(Sold at Sportie L.A.)
14510 Ventura Boulevard
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
Founder Steven Weinreb started Civic Duty in 2009 when he lost his job along with many other Americans during the recession. He set out to prove that a successful company can be synonymous with being socially, environmentally and fiscally responsible. The Civic Duty shoe collection is made of Tyvek®, the same material used to protect housing from the elements. In addition to being made out of environmentally-friendly materials, packaging is also made of recycled items. Another fantastic initiative the company has is how it ties itself with social causes. Each year, an exclusive shoe is designed, with 100% of profits going towards a community in the U.S.
Selina Vaughan Handbags
Woodland Hills, CA
Selina Vaughan is a Woodland Hills-based handbag designer. She repurposes fabrics, such as vintage Japanese wedding gowns, upholstery fabrics and most recently, vintage seed sacks. Vaughan discovered seed bags when she was digging through auctions in the Midwest and found the bold graphics irresistible. It turns out that these sacks are significant to rural American history, as they were manufactured for corn seed, grass seed and flour. These gorgeously structured bags complete with leather buckles and brass buttons take on a sophisticated second life as a chic accessory.
Vintage Book Clocks
Los Angeles, CA
When you select a book, do you judge it by the cover? If so, you’ll love Vintage Book Clocks, a company based in Los Angeles that repurposes books into functional clocks. In the age of technology, books are quickly becoming a lost art. The idea of presenting books in a new context is a brilliant way to preserve the history of a literary collection. Keep your love of the written word close by with one of these handcrafted timepieces.
(Sold at Yolk)
1626 Silverlake Blvd
Los Angeles, CA. 90026
This eco-friendly Mighty Wallet is stronger than it looks. It’s like kryptonite to water and tearing. There are no stitches to hold it together; instead, the origami folds used to construct the wallets add durability and expandability to its long list of impressive qualities.
These greenback stashers come in more than 100 eye-catching designs and are made of Tyvek®, the same material used for express mail envelopes. It’s comprised of 25% post-consumer microfiber. They will continue to surprise you with their might for years to come, but when it’s time to trade it in for a new one, be sure to recycle the old.
Joy Bitonio has the phrase “Joie de Vivre” tattooed on her shoulder, a reminder to enjoy life every single day. She has a voracious appetite for fun, adventure, food, good cocktails and works out like a madwoman to keep it all together. Her fitness articles can be found on examiner.com. Follow her on Twitter.