I recently came across a picture in a catalog of one of those copper-finished galvanized steel tubs that people use for storing wood next to the fireplace. Or for filling with iced beverages for a party.
The description tells me that it is modeled after the classic “wash boiler” – a tub in which water was heated for washing clothes in the old days. I think we have an inherited old-fashioned oval tub of some type stashed away at our house. I’m wondering how it might look filled with wood on our brick hearth.
I’m always interested in finding new ways to use old things – ideas that can often be found on the pages of Martha Stewart Living or Real Simple magazine.
Many years ago, I visited a textile artist’s studio in which she stored balls of yarns in glass fishbowls. The colors! The textures! All in clear view. I immediately wanted to take up knitting.
And I’ve seen apothecary jars used in countless ways. A good-looking jar can make even cotton balls look interesting.
There are many ways to rethink everyday household items such as glassware and baskets.
How many times have we seen clear canning jars used as flower vases? Still, it’s a look that never grows old. I also happen to use one under the kitchen sink to hold long-handled scouring brushes. The glass jar is just so easy to keep clean.
Woven baskets can be displayed on a shelf, but they take on new life when used to corral gourds, apples, television remotes, mail or keys.
Clear glass votives can be used for many things besides candles. As Matthew Mead suggests in his book “Entertaining Simple” (Wiley, $24.95), they can be used to hold lime and lemon wedges, olives, even a scoop of sea salt or a blend of peppers. Just add a small spoon and place several of them on the table for your next dinner party.
I’ve seen bar glasses of different sizes repurposed as desk accessories to hold rubber bands, pencils, paper clips and other office supplies. Glassware such as this often otherwise goes unused, hidden behind cabinet doors or, sometimes, even stashed in the basement.
Some other ideas:
• You know all those phone chargers, earbuds and other small cords that end up scattered all over the house? Why not toss them in a pottery bowl placed somewhere that is accessible to all the gadget-users in your family? Find a cord on the kitchen counter? Throw it in the bowl. Between the sofa cushions? Not for long. Maybe, if you’re lucky, family members will start doing the same.
• You don’t know how pretty a shallow glass bowl can be until you add water and float a few cut blossoms in it.
• Pitchers – and we do tend to collect a few through the years – can be handy vessels for holding kitchen utensils.
• Rectangular baskets are a great solution to many storage situations. At our house, we use one in the living room to stash sheet music, books and other supplies used by the resident string player. Another basket, this one somewhat larger and located in the hallway, is home to dog toys – and the occasional shoe he drops in.
Now, if only we could train him to gather the mail off the kitchen counter and drop it in a designated container.