Imagine walking into someone’s room, and the first thing that you see is a hanging lamp made from the northern hemisphere of a former desk globe.
“I want to push the limits,” Denise Sabia, owner of The Painted Home, a decoration and design business, said. “And then, I want to push it a few steps further.
Sabia, who is abundantly cheerful and energetic, is also overflowing with decoration ideas for folks on a budget.
She focuses her decoration techniques on the growing idea of “Upcycling,” or repurposing household, and sometimes not-so-household, items, as in creating a stool from the metal casing of an industrial-sized fire alarm.
“I want people to think, ‘Look what I made, it’s crazy,’” Sabia said. “And, it’s even crazier that you made it for $3.”
Sabia said that trips to flea markets, thrift stores, consignment shops, and even the roadside on trash day are perfect for entire home decoration.
The Painted Home
Sabia earned her interior decorator certification from Philadelphia University in 1999 and went to work as a home decorator, furnishing homes in the traditional, modern style.
During this time, Sabia was living in an apartment, also furnished in the “traditional” style. However, her decorating options were limited to her income.
“I was poor, and received a lot of hand-me-downs,” Sabia recalled. “It’s all I had.”
Such hand-me-downs gave what she called a “mish-mash” set of plates and silverware, and found she liked the look.
Soon, she started creating her own furnishings and decorations, including a coffee table made from a door.
She started a blog in 2009 as a portfolio of her work, which she said immediately garnered attention and comments. However, some admirers came from places she never expected.
“I had comments from Italy, France and even Egypt,” Sabia said, adding with a grin, “That was crazy.”
As she works out of her home in Ambler, sabia does not have a retail location, but has continued expanding her online presence by using social media sites, such as Pinterest and Facebook, as well as starting her website paintedhomedesigns.com, named after her business The Painted Home.
Upcyling at the Philadelphia Home Show
In 2012, The Painted Home received major exposure as the first upcycling decoration vendor at the Philadelphia Home Show, which takes place in the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.
According to Sabia, one of the vendors for the Philadelphia Home Show’s room showcase dropped out at the last minute; after a brief interview with the show’s manager, Sabia was invited to showcase her unique decorations.
“Everyone stopped and stared,” Sabia said. “It was so popular.”
Setting up a bedroom scene, she said the hundreds of home show visitors throughout the week would often stop at her exhibit to take pictures, some of which she said went viral. Many more stopped to ask questions on how they could decorate their homes in the same manner.
“My face hurt from smiling so much,” she said, adding that she was more than happy to share her upcyling tips and advice. “I would like to get this into people’s homes, even if it’s just a pinch of this.”
This year, the Philadelphia Home Show runs from Feb. 2 – Feb. 10.
Sabia, with the help of the host from “Abandoned” on the National Geographic Channel, has set up a dining-room scene at the Philadelphia Home Show. Some of the highlights of her exhibit include:
- Wood floorboards rescued from an old barn
- A wreath made from paper maps, fixed to the frame of a window that now holds decorative mirrors
- A dining table bench made from the top of a gymnasium pommel horse (the bottom of the pommel horse serves as the base for the dining table)
- Wall hangings comprised of found wood and deer antlers
- A photo booth, especially made for this year’s show
“I like that people can have a conversation piece,” Sabia said.
Circa Dee Joins the Home Show
In light of the popularity from Sabia’s exhibit last year, the Philadelphia Home Show held a contest for other decorators specializing in upcycling techniques, resulting in North Wales resident Dana Marston exhibiting her reclaimed industrial bedroom scene.
“It’s quite an honor to be awarded with the opportunity,” Marston said. “I am thrilled to show how people can repurpose items instead of putting it into a landfill.”
Marston, who has a brick and mortar shop at 1814 Valley Forge Road in Worcester, refers to herself as a vintage stylist. On her blog, circadee.com, she writes that vintage, family heirlooms and found materials can be given a new life when mixed with modern decor.
“Sometimes you might not even know what they were before,” Marston said. “There’s no limit. If you dream it, you can make it.”
She added that not all repurposed furnishings need to be drastically created, as sometimes a new coat of paint will do the trick. At the Philadelphia Home Show, she plans on highlighting a new line of the non-toxic “Milk Paint,” which was once a popular form of paint.
According to Alyson Caplan, the Philadelphia Home Show event manager, the show strives to provide diversity of tastes in decoration. However, she explained that the upcycling trend has become more popular in recent years.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for decorating in today’s economy,” Caplan said.
She said that in the 32-year history of the Philadelphia Home Show, last year was the first year an uncycling vendor was featured, adding that she was amazed by what can be done by repurposing materials.
As further support for upcycling, the Philadelphia Home Show is also sponsoring a contest with Philadelphia Habitat for Humanity, in which people may vote for their favorite or “most fabulous” upcycled project.
Going to the 2013 Philadelphia Home Show?
- Where: Pennsylvania Convention Center, Exhibition Hall A, 12th and Arch streets, Philadelphia
- When: Feb. 2 – 10
- Ticket information: www.phillyhomeshow.com
Sabia will hold several presentations throughout the home show, including tips on how to create and find items to upcycle. For more information, click here.
For more information about the Philadelphia Habitat for Humanity upcycle challenge, visit the organization’s Facebook Page here.