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New ideas for some everyday objects

The other day I treated myself to a skinny latte and, as I was paying, I noticed an old-fashioned coffee mill by the register. The little drawer was open, and inside were pennies customers could take if they needed one.

"What a cute idea," I told the woman behind the counter, admiring the vintage mill.

"Yes, isn't it?," she smiled back.

Next, I visited a nearby nursery. At the entrance, a large potted plant was displayed in a charming bird bath.

A tall bird bath as plant pedestal. What a cute idea, I said for the second time in 20 minutes -- especially once a bird bath cracks and is no longer suited to its original purpose.

Sure, the pennies at the coffee bar could have been unceremoniously dropped inside a paper cup. Or the plant could have been placed in a utilitarian plant stand.

But these two ideas, simple as they were, caught my eye and brought a smile to my face.

The idea of repurposing is nothing new, of course, but it's one that can easily and quickly bring style, warmth and even a little humor to a space.

I enjoy finding different ways to use everyday objects. I have a white ceramic water pitcher I never use as a pitcher but rather as a vase for daisies. Similarly, I like to use old canning jars as vases on picnic tables.

Years ago, in my gardening decor period, I attached a white garden trellis to the wall of our half bath for guest towels.

And my most recent windfall: hot pink bandannas with big white polka dots I use not as scarves but as basket liners.

I own eight of them -- enough to someday use them as napkins if the mood strikes.

But my repurposing pales compared to other ideas I have seen.

I have yet to reinvent a weathered garden urn as an accent table. I've never hung an old gate or window frame as wall art. And I've never used old apothecary jars as depositories for cotton balls, loofahs or pretty bars of soaps.

Some people scour flea markets and antique shops for items that can be reinvented or recycled. But, many times, the items are right in your own home. Some ideas to ponder:

A child's wooden chair: This can be used as a plant stand, a base for towels in a guest bathroom or even to hold a stack of books.

Barware: If yours is a soda, wine and beer crowd, don't just let the double old-fashioned, martini or tall tumblers you inherited collect dust. Use them in a home office for holding pens, paper clips, etc. Or use them to serve nuts, sliced lime, etc.

Footed salad bowl: If you don't use it very often and it's pretty, why not pull it out of the cupboard and fill it with fresh apples -- or even mail?

Beverage buckets: Designed to hold ice, wine bottles, etc., at parties, you can put these to work in a number of other ways. I've seen rustic-looking ones holding everything from magazines to kindling. And some of the enameled galvanized buckets -- in pure white or bright colors -- can be used to hold rolled-up towels, books, yarn and more.

I just bought one that measures about 18 inches in diameter. It's white with hot pink trim, and I found it on the clearance shelf. Irresistible. I'm not quite sure how I will use it, but I do know one thing.

It sure looks cute with those polka-dotted bandannas.

e-mail: smartin@buffnews.com

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