Re-Purposing Vintage Items

There are some purists among us that vehemently hold out for antique items or those of a vintage nature to be held in the highest esteem; not altered in anyway and just collected and truly appreciated for the item they were intended to be.  I admit, I can sometimes be one of these people but I also see the need to use an item for another purpose when the original purpose becomes redundant.  When it comes to antiques and vintage items of a highly collectible nature, I have a tendency to love the item more if it is left as is; not altered and appreciated for its original purpose but, sadly time marches on, technology replaces everyday items and we find ourselves with an overabundance of stuff.

While wandering around vintage markets, I often see items intended for some other purpose, reused as an object of art, or remade into some other serviceable item.  I thought I’d share some of the more unusual items.

dsc00437.jpgThis mirror lined with shoe forms has a unique look that is rather appealing.  From a distance it appears surrounded by wooden petals.  The person was a genius that looked at a pile of discarded wooden shoe forms and thought, “Hey, why not make a mirror frame out of these?”  What else could be made from something that once was used in every shoe store in the nation and now replaced by plastic shoe forms?  The beauty in the repetition of the forms lined up along the outside of this large mirror would look fantastic above a stone fireplace or as a focal point in a foyer.

What a great idea to turn an old pick-up truck tailgate into the back of a bench.  If you have a favorite auto manufacturer, this could be a way to enhance your garden space.  The other garden bench was made from the front piece of a vintage tractor. Funky, I know but functional and a real conversation piece.


About a year ago, I started seeing these round rubber discs at markets. Each one has a different design but they are all about the same size. These round rubber discs were once used for molding jewelry findings, rings, broaches, etc.  In a foundry, the life of these molds is not very long but the beauty of the molds can be appreciated for longer when someone mounted them on a stand as an object of art. What else could someone make from these discarded molds?  I thought of using one to make patterns in concrete.

Sometimes the stuff we find at vintage markets is just that….stuff.  The piles and tables full of pieces that someone felt compelled to save from the trash heap can be a wealth of inspiration it just takes some time and imagination to dream up a new life for these pieces.

A friend and fellow market stall owner turns items from these piles and tables of small items into pillow adornments.  Her pillows started life as vintage canvas mail bags and bank bags then Diane gets to work adorning them with trinkets and pieces of a bygone era.  She often uses old watch cases, pieces of jewelry, keys, dog tags, tiny purses, door escutcheons, magnifying lenses, tinker toys, key chains, etc.  Anything that is small, interesting to look at and hold, or something of a tactile nature.  Her trinket pillows bring a smile to my face.  I think of a small child with all these types of thing in his pocket, treasures from a lifetime of collecting, or at least a few days of collecting.

What would you make from a vintage item no longer needed for it’s original purpose?


  1. I’m one of those who generally likes old things left as they are, though perhaps not used as originally intended. Often that means just being a decorative object as vintage or antique everyday objects have a level of craftsmanship rarely seen in such items today. However, one example of reuse without changing might be old flat irons as interesting book ends, door stops or small ones make good paper weights.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree but sometimes the intended use is no longer needed, efficient use of time (like a ringer washing machine) or even possible (like using house phones with a dial). Nice to look at but maybe best in a museum


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