Applying the “reduce, reuse, recycle” axiom to interior design yields a new mission and a new look. Here’s how you can rethink, reclaim and restyle

Twice a year, I make the trip that so many people from Hawaii love — to our ninth island! No, I don’t stay at the Cal, and I don’t go to gamble or see the shows. I take these trips for my business, and like many other interior designers, boutique owners and buyers across the country, I attend our industry’s market event in glitzy Las Vegas!


The World Market Center in Las Vegas comprises an incredible five million square feet, much of which is transformed for the semi-annual trade show featuring the latest in furniture, lighting, area rugs and accents. Anything and everything you need to make your home beautiful can be found in three buildings with up to 16 floors each.

On my most recent trip in late February, I took my assistants Kara, Julie and Audra along. We were shopping for clients and our showroom, and of course, looking for new sources of inspiration. And inspired we got! I’ll use this column to give you some quick tips about creative repurposing. As I’ve said before, reclaimed furniture and accents are not just a phase. This truly is a whole new way of thinking and designing. As time goes on, people are finding more and more creative ways to use not only reclaimed wood, but to repurpose almost anything for form or function.

I found these beautiful wall plaques made of wood reclaimed from barn floors at a past Las Vegas Market. They were displayed as interesting pieces of wall art that can be hung either singly or in multiples to create a grouping. I have some at our showroom, and I used some in a Diamond Head house that we remodeled and furnished.

For that client, the Vavuls, I couldn’t find just the right headboard for the master bedroom — until I saw these plaques. Why not put six of them together and turn a piece of art into a one-of-a-kind head-board for a king-size bed? Voila!


Sometimes, even when you have hundreds of thousands of square feet of items appearing before you day after day, you can learn to see beyond how they’re displayed and find a creative solution for your design needs. Take a look at how older, worn and even broken tennis rackets can be turned into a whimsical piece of art.

I took a picture for a client whose son is an avid tennis player. Wouldn’t this make a great centerpiece for a kid’s bedroom? Or could it inspire someone like you to hunt through your closet or your parents’ spare bedroom to see if you can repurpose something to create a unique piece of art that speaks to you?

Don’t look at things at face value. See what you already have lying around, look at it in a creative light, and see whether you can make something decorative or functional. It could be the most interesting piece in your home!


I’ll be back next week with more for you from that treasure house in Las Vegas!

Cathy Lee is president and designer of Cathy Lee Style and Cathy’s Marketplace, a furniture and accessories showroom with design services at 1110 University Ave. She recently opened reStyle Hawaii, an affordable, style-conscious consignment warehouse with upholstering and repurposing services at 420 Keawe St. Visit