How-To & Diy

8 Ways to Decorate Your Home in a More Mindful Way

May  9, 2018

We've all heard about reclaimed and salvaged goods, but do we know what those terms actually mean? If you're unsure, we're here to break all the terms down for you. Interior designer Joanne Palmisano is passionate about looking around for design inspiration in reused and recycled materials. In her latest book, Styling with Salvage: Designing and Decorating with Reclaimed Materials, she gives DIYers a wealth of tips and compelling before/after photos to learn from.

Below, you'll find an excerpt from the book to lay down the framework for what "reclaimed" means, and all of the ways you can start exploring the world of secondhand items.

Defining Reclaimed: What Does It All Mean? (An Excerpt)

Reclaimed material goes by a million names. Okay, maybe not a million, but you get my point. Don’t worry. Honestly, almost all of them are interchangeable and none are wrong. In my first two books, Salvage Secrets and Salvage Secrets Design & Decor, I used the word salvage to describe all the items that were given a second chance at life, whether it was a piece of furniture or a piece of glass. For me, materials that are saved from destruction are things that are reused, reclaimed, repurposed, restored, recycled, salvaged, antique, or vintage. It’s all good, in my opinion. The world of secondhand items and materials can get a bit confusing when dozens of seemingly interchangeable words are used to describe it all. As a designer who specializes in using these materials, I’ve tried to put some structure and meaning behind each of these terms.


One of the easiest ways to be environmentally friendly is to reuse your own things. No additional energy is used to create a new product or involve the recycling process. Just by arranging your materials in a different way, you can change the look of your rooms. I love to get people to think outside the box when redoing their own homes. Can you paint your dining chairs in a bold color? Use stain or paint on your cabinets instead of buying new ones? Move that dresser into the bathroom? Place all your prints on one wall instead of having a single one on many walls? These styling tips are just a few examples of how you can reuse your own materials first.


The word reclaim is one of the most common terms used to describe secondhand stuff. Reclaiming almost always refers to wood: antique wood, vintage wood, heritage lumber, and secondhand dimensional lumber. When looking for old wood online, I usually search with the word reclaimed, because it’s in so many of the names of the companies that salvage it. Throughout this book, you’ll see examples of various woods and a variety of ways to use them: in tables, counters, wall hangings, and much more. 

Lace tablecloths can be transformed into shower curtains, sweaters can be turned into pillows, old wood paneling can become a vintage-inspired sign, or an old desk can evolve into a bathroom vanity. As a contributing designer for DIY Network and other DIY magazines and sites, I spend a lot of time making something out of something else. And after a while, repurposing just becomes “second” nature. 


One of the fastest-growing trends in the design industry is repurposing. Whether it’s metal baskets used as light fixtures, dressers turned into bathroom vanities, or doors made into headboards, the trend is everywhere. The word repurpose generally refers to using an item for something that is totally different than its original purpose. Repurposing is one of the most creative ways you can change up old stuff. When you look at an old piece, see if there is a different way you can incorporate it into your home. 


When you find an old piece, an antique, or a collector’s item, it might just need a good cleaning if you’re lucky. But sometimes your purchases require a little restoration work. Joints might need to be reglued or tightened. Claw feet of an old tub may need some repair, or a chip fixed. A lighting fixture might need to be rewired. But other than some restoration work, these pieces stand on their history and original purpose. Bringing something back to life is an easy way to add character to your home. If you alter an old piece of importance that you acquire, most likely that piece will lose a fair amount of its monetary value. So really do your homework. When in doubt, before you make any drastic changes, email a picture of your new find to an antique appraiser. For a small fee the appraiser will give you an assessment.


This one is a biggie, because it could be considered interchangeable with any of the other keywords noted here. But in design, I like to use the term recycle when referencing tile, countertops, lighting, sinks, carpeting, furniture, and more items that have been made with “typical recycled/recyclable material” such as glass, textiles, metal, and paper. I’m happy to say that the demand for recycled-content materials and products is on the rise—helping keep these materials out of our already overflowing landfills and saving energy and virgin ore. Both the design world and homeowners are searching for materials that look and feel new but that have been made with recycled content.


Salvage is all about rescuing stuff. That’s why you see a lot of architectural shops using that word, because they rescue materials from old buildings, homes, barns, and warehouses and save them for us to use. A big thank you to all the folks who do this—it’s a lot of hard manual labor and we appreciate it!


This term usually refers to valuable pieces of furniture or fixtures that are about 100 years old and older. Antiques are things that you don’t want to cut up and repurpose because of their value and importance in our homes and history. There are many ways to learn more about pieces you already own or are looking to buy. Antique appraisers, the antique shop owners themselves, and online sites are all great resources. Researching is half the fun!


This is the buzzword of the day and can describe things that are a mere 20 years old or a century old. Vintage is often used instead of antique because it’s trendier, though the line between the two can be blurred. So whether you’re looking for a midcentury sideboard, a 1980s rock band T-shirt, or a 1970s dresser, you can use the word vintage to help your search.

Excerpted from Styling with Salvage: Designing and Decorating with Reclaimed Materials, by Joanne Palmisano. Copyright © 2018. Used with permission of the publisher, Countryman Press. All rights reserved.

Have you designed and decorated your home with reclaimed materials? Let us know below!

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Hana is a food writer/editor based in New York.