Working With What’s There

Shipping Container Home, Sarah Beckstrom
(2014 First Place Winner, National Reuse Contest)

By Ted Reiff

People frequently send me news items on deconstruction and reuse-related topics. One recent article from The New York Times features the late sculptor J.B. Blunk and the home he built entirely of salvaged materials in the rural Marin County town of Inverness, California. Blunk, who started his artistic career as a potter before shifting to primarily wood, favored "found" materials, such as beached logs or discarded lumber from construction sites. Redwood was Blunk's favorite medium, not only for his hand-crafted home, but for the large "seating sculptures" that became his trademark.

Blunk's work and artistry reminded me of the unique projects many of you have entered in the TRP-sponsored National Reuse Contest over the years. The 2016 contest just ended and, once again, like Blunk, contestants have used a wide range of salvaged materials to create artistic, attractive and functional pieces. The Times notes that Blunk welcomed the cracks, imperfections and color variations of salvaged materials, and I think the same is true of our contestants. They may lack the artist's credentials and gravitas, but they have a similar appreciation for the distinctive beauty tendered by time and wear.

National Reuse Contest entrants represent only a small fraction of the TRP customers who have envisioned, designed and completed memorable projects with used materials. A few examples that quickly come to mind are:

  • The sushi restaurant where all tables, walls and the sushi bar are finished with used lumber
  • Entire residential neighborhoods in Mexico where used garage doors serve as walls, and roofs are constructed of wood panels salvaged from Hollywood movie sets
  • Custom garden sheds and green houses constructed entirely of used materials, including doors, lumber, windows, shower pans and hardware
  • Shipping containers superbly retrofitted and transformed into tiny houses
  • Large metal sculptures constructed of spanner wrenches
  • Playable musical instruments created from landfill trash
  • Furniture built from discarded appliances, old farm implements, stones, machine parts and, of course, salvaged wood
  • Garden art made from commercial cans and scrap metal
  • Tree houses, conference tables, chicken coops, fences and… well, you get the idea.

The Times quotes Blunk as saying "…the primary thing you have to accept from the beginning is that you are going to make something out of what is there." That's the lesson I want to emphasize. Let's stop burying good materials in landfills and instead focus on making useful and beautiful things from materials that are left over, abandoned, or thrown away. J.B. Blunk, TRP contestants, and many other conscientious people have demonstrated what can be accomplished with salvaged materials, when combined with liberal doses of vision and resolve.

Specials of the Month

At the Oakland we are featuring plumbing and regular Doug-fir lumber. Receive 25% off the price of any plumbing fixture or Doug-fir lumber purchase through December 31.
The ReUse People Specials
The Los Angeles warehouse is featuring both windows and doors. Receive 50% off the price of any window or door in the warehouse through December 31.
The ReUse People Specials

New Inventory

The Oakland warehouse has recently received shipments of versatile red brick. Stock up now for spring and summer projects.


New inventory at the Los Angeles warehouse includes an oval solid-wood bathroom vanity with distinctive details and fixtures, and various sizes of custom leaded stain-glass windows.

The ReUse People Specials The ReUse People Specials

Location and Contact Information

TRP ReUse Warehouse - Oakland
9235 San Leandro Street
Oakland, CA  94603
(510) 383-1983; toll-free 888-588-9490
Hours: Mon-Sat 9:00-6:00 Closed Sunday

TRP ReUse Warehouse - Los Angeles
3015 Dolores Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90065
Hours: Mon-Fri 10:00-5:00; Sat 10:00-4:00

Please visit our partnering warehouses:

Salvage Too - Rockford Reuse Center
907 S Main Street
Rockford, IL 61101
(815) 963-6236
Hours: Tue-Fri, 11:00am-4:30pm

The ReUse Warehouse
1400 East Geer Street
Durham, NC 27704
(919) 219-4913
Hours: Mon-Fri, 2:00-6:00; Sat, 9:30-5:00

Second Chance Building Materials Center
1423 West Grove Street
Boise, ID 83702
(208) 331-2707
Hours: Mon-Sat, 9:00-6:00; Sun, 12:00-5:00

Roaring Fork Valley Habitat for Humanity
7025 Hwy 82
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
(970) 945-7733
Hours: Mon-Fri, 10:00-5:30; Sat, 10:00-5:00; Sun, 11:00-4:00

Stardust Building Supply
3901 E. Thunderbird Road
Phoenix, AZ 85032
(602) 459-9803
Hours: Mon-Sat, 8:00-6:00; Sun, 10:00-4:00

Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Salt Lake Valley,
1276 South 500 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
(801) 263-0136
Hours: Mon-Sat 9:00am-6:00pm; closed Sunday

Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Summit & Wasatch Counties
6280 N. Silver Creek Drive, Silver Summit, UT
(435) 487-9015
Hours: Wed-Sat 10:00-6:00; closed Sunday

Recycle Utah
1951 Woodbine Way Park City, UT 84060
(435) 649-9698
Hours: Mon-Sat 8:00-5:30; Sun 10:00-4:00

Reuse Depot
50 West Madison
Maywood, IL 60153
(708) 223-0502
Hours: Wed-Mon 10:00-6:00p; Closed Tuesdays

New England Reuse
400 Sackett Point Rd
North Haven, CT 06473
(203) 230-2638
Hours: Mon-Fri 9:00-5:00p; Saturday 9:00-1:00p

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