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December 17th, 2010

The Upside of “Eco-Eclectic”

I’ve never bought a brand new piece of furniture. I have pressed my face against shop windows of Canadian furniture boutiques, imagining a day when I would start to build a collection of pieces to make home homier. I’ve admired my friend’s purchases, quietly stealing their design ideas. I’ve thumbed through catalogues hoping my eyes will fall on that object that speaks to ‘ME’. But I have yet to cross over from team “Dreamer” to play on team “Owner”.


My apartment is far from empty. I have all manner of relics from other people’s lives, handed to me and accepted either out of necessity or convenience. My grandmother’s kitchen table, my fiance’s couch, my uncle’s TV cabinet all mash together to do what they were designed to do. They are functional and mismatched, worn, dented, stained, scratched and outdated, and I love them all. I am sentimentally attached, and I realize this suits me well for a few reasons.


Until I am ready to commit to replacing these items with newer, locally made, and *gasp* perhaps even complementary pieces, I can rest well knowing that they have all been saved from the dump, where they would take hundreds of years to break down...maybe thousands. I am reusing, reducing, and recycling. Hand-me-downs are an original form of eco-consciousness. My furniture has stories and it reminds me everyday of people I love. When the time comes, I hope to find a good home for each piece.


When I do finally buy new, it will be Canadian made, as often as possible, for similar reasons. The closer it’s made, the less it has to travel, saving fuel. Canadian resources are generally held to higher environmental standards. And these new members of the household will collect stories of their own and get passed on, thus continuing the three ‘R’ legacy. But for now, I can tell people that my design aesthetic is “eco-eclectic,” and be genuinely happy with that.

  • Posted by Rachelle Wilson on December 17th, 2010, 13:55
    Love this article. It reminds of the collections of furniture that my parents and grandparents keep from those eras of heirlooms and milestones. I wonder how many people know the story of their furniture like you obviously do!
  • Posted by Jennifer Downey on December 17th, 2010, 16:30
    Sara, you are like most of us. We never start our "grown-up" lives with a complete set of matching brand new furniture that fits perfectly in our first apartment or home. We start it with OP's - other people's hand-me-downs. Those hand-me-downs give us a chance to fill our place, yet not break the bank. As time goes on, we begin to replace and redecorate our lives and our homes, and when we do, we help out those starting out by handing down, and passing along the things that we've outgrown.
  • Posted by Angi on December 17th, 2010, 17:16
    I bought my first piece of brand new furniture three years ago - it is a shockingly exciting experience to know you are the first owner. But like you, I am frugal and like interesting pieces, so I also try and collect previously loved pieces. I would love to find a Canadian store that would reclaim old furniture and give it new life as a unique piece of furniture art. I have seen some small artisans who do it and I think it would make eco chic even more fabulous.
  • Posted by anne tourigny on December 17th, 2010, 19:16
    The minute I signed the dotted line and became a home owner, I said to myself that I would throw everything away and start over scratch . Then it hit me; all the memories each piece held from my own personal history as well as others whom have contributed in making my house a home.
    Like you I have decided to use the 3 "R" and invest local and buy Canadian. It is reassuring to know that there is someone out there that understands this and that will guide me through the good the bad and the ugly !
  • Posted by Rosemary on December 17th, 2010, 19:29
    If we ever move out of this place, I want to get rid of my husband's inherited junk ! We will probably be in a bit larger space (?) but even if not, it will be a new change with a fresh new start. I am definitely thinking more ecologically these days and if the furniture is Canadian and closer to where I am living, made well and a good design...well, let's just sya I will be intced to buy.
  • Posted by magda on December 18th, 2010, 16:17
    Comme mon anglais écrit est loin d'être parfait (je vous rassure toute fois, je comprends parfaitement cet article et tous les commentaires), j'ai décidée d'exprimer mes commentaires en français. Je suis, moi-même, une "ramasseuse" de vieux meubles et j'aime les mobiliers "vintage" avec histoire et style. Au fil du temps, j'ai donnée à ma maison un look moderne parsemé d'objet et meubles d'origine. En plus, comme c'est une forme de recyclage je suis bien contente de garder ces vieux "trésors" chez moi. Merci pour cette article et vision très intéressante !
  • Posted by Sara Lomas on February 4th, 2011, 11:30
    Apologies to everyone for my tardy reply. I promise to do better.

    @Rachelle: Schlepping old hand-me-downs from home to home is not for everyone, but for those who do, they do it for love. It'll be fun to add new stories to the old ones.

    @Jennifer: There you go! What's my second hand stuff today will be my daughter's first apartment 20 years from now. And after that (if it survives), who knows....

    @Angi: What a great idea. I don't know if such a thing exists, but if it does, I'll try to find out. If it doesn't, then it should. Fancy going into the furniture business?

    @Anne: Let's guide each other. I'm a newbie too! I'm happy to hear you're preserving your personal history AND evolving at the same time. Have fun.

    @Rosemary: Happy to hear it! Making a home together and building your story as a couple is exciting. Let me know if you need help finding manufacturers or retailers in your neck o' the woods.

    @Magda: Je suis dans le meme bateau (can I say that?). Je comprend, but I write better in English. I've seen the pics on your blog and can tell you are an expert on uniting old treasures with modern living. Well done, your home is beautiful!

    Thanks everyone for your comments. Keep your stories coming. Love hearing them.
  • Posted by N. Belanger on February 7th, 2011, 16:26
    Well the Echo- chic trend continues for 2011 while inviting nature in...For beautiful reclaimed tree trunk furniture see
  • Posted by Sara Lomas on March 18th, 2011, 12:15
    Hello, N.
    Love your site! Those tables are divine. Thanks for sharing.
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Janette  Ewen

Janette Ewen has been one of Canada’s leading décor and lifestyle experts for more than a decade, passing on her passion for design and fashion to avid fans through magazines, newspapers and television.

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