How to Repurpose Junk into Furniture: From Bikes to Industrial Parts
Got junk? Of course you do. Everyone has junk that they want to get rid of. Maybe it’s a bicycle you no longer ride, a broken fan, or a piece-of-junk car riding out its last miles. But before you rid yourself of your so-called useless items, consider their usefulness in their second lives. Items that you may think are too industrial or outdated to be repurposed into practical household objects can in fact be reborn. Many pieces of so-called trash go on to become unique pieces of furniture and home accessories. You, too, can repurpose junk into cool objects you actually love.
If nobody wants your old bike, consider using the frame as a clock. Strip the paint away until the metal returns to its original color, or just paint it a neutral color. Then find a clock that’s similar in diameter to the bike’s wheels, and swap one wheel out for the clock. Of course, since having a whole bike in a living space is impractical for most people, you could simply add a few numbers and clock mechanisms to the center of a wheel to create an unusual timepiece. For instance, the blades from a malfunctioned fan and a bike wheel could be combined to make a very special clock.
Additionally, bicycle pedals and gears can be used to add flare to an old bar stool. In one instance, Barak 7, a duo of industrial furniture designers based in the UK, adorned a vintage stool with some bike chains. By turning the cog set and crank perpendicular to the floor and fixing the pedals in place, a once simple stool suddenly had footrests. This fitting addition to an existing object was achieved by using elements of an old bike that would normally be cast away. Sometimes, it’s the smaller pieces of larger objects that we tend to overlook that have the greatest potential for repurposing.
Think of the large springs that might have come from a child’s toy or an old sofa, or maybe even the gears that came from a winch or clock. Both items could be used to create lamp stands. At Machine Age Lamps in Lakeville, Minnesota, antique items and industrial equipment are salvaged and turned into exclusive handcrafted products. For instance, the store made a lighting fixture from a 1940s fan that was originally manufactured by the Emerson Electric Company. They removed the four fan blades and replaced them with four vintage 40-watt Edison bulbs.
Many of the aforementioned examples are small items that can fit easily into a home, but large industrial parts can also be transformed into distinctive pieces of furniture. Even the junk that comes from a scrap yard or factory can find new life as a chair, table, or home accessory.
At Oska25, a boutique store in Montreal full of quirky industrial furniture, they can’t get over the barrel. They sell oil barrel chairs, loveseats, stools, coffee tables, and side tables. Admittedly, you wouldn’t sit on these products for too long, even if they were cushioned, but they would be guaranteed conversation-starters when entertaining guests.
If having oil barrels in your living room or den is still too industrial for you and you prefer something more subtle, Barak 7 sells furniture made from the wheels of mining and factory trolleys. These rustic tables aren’t always flat, but they’re still practical. The fact that some of them have wheels instead of legs makes them seem movable, even though they aren’t.
Now these are slightly larger industrial goods, but what about that piece-of-junk car we mentioned early on? Surely it has no future other than being sent to the scrap yard and rummaged for parts, right? Well, you’re partially correct. Companies like Oxyd Factory specialize in producing industrial furniture from car parts and whole portions of vehicles.
Machine Age Lamps takes the grilles of jeeps and tractors and turns them into table supports. For instance, they used the grille from a 1950s Willy Jeep, re-wired the lights so that they’d continue to work, removed all the chrome, and got some barn wood from a 1900s box car for the table top. The company also used the radiators of 1930s tractors and some pipe fittings to create other tables and consoles.
Finally, for the few of you who have really large obsolete vehicles like small planes, do your best to at least keep the nose. It can be repurposed into a distinctive wall sconce. Machine Age Lamps uses the engine cowling from planes manufactured by the Piper aviation company and turns them into wall sconces. As is the case with most of the company’s products, the propellers are replaced with Edison bulbs.
Just by using your creativity, being resourceful, and getting inspired by the products of others, you too can repurpose your (and other people’s) junk into valuable pieces of industrial furniture.