Friday, September 6, 2013

Finding Beauty in Utilitarian Materials

Meet Me in Philadelphia
Lately I'm finding myself drawn more and more to the creative minds out there who see beauty and potential in the most humble utilitarian materials. Weird, right? For example, concrete, rope, and kraft paper are just few affordable materials that are readily available and waiting to be turned into one-of-a-kind accents for any home.

As the autumn approaches, I'm gathering ideas for projects I can tackle with a quick trip to any hardware or craft store. Perhaps you're feeling the itch to get creative this September too, so here's a rundown of my favorite easy-to-find utility materials that are begging to be reimagined!

My first foray into rope was my pair of rope-wrapped side tables that I made this summer. When I shopped for my project supplies, I was surprised to discover just how many varieties of rope there are--all of which were less than $10. Nylon, sisal, jute, manila: you name it, you can find it. Rope comes in a number of shades and colors, too, including neon!

Upholstery Webbing:
Woven webbing is the type of material that's incredibly handy but usually kept behind the scenes of your favorite pieces of upholstered furniture. As it turns out, it's a really cool looking pattern too. A yard can be purchased for less than a dollar at Online Fabric Store! I'm currently working on a project that incorporates upholstery webbing and I'll share it soon.

Like upholtsery webbing, metal pipe is hidden for the most part behind walls and under floorboards. Yet, it seems like lots of ingenious bloggers and designers out there now are utilizing this material in copper, brass and stainless steel for lighting and furniture projects alike. Piping price varies depending on the material (with copper being pricier than stainless steel), but a small piece can make a big impact.

Sure, it's a key component to the foundation of our homes, but concrete can also be a key component to many modern crafts. A single bag of concrete--more than enough for any of these projects--is just $5! I'm intrigued by the sleekness of molded concrete and love reading about how easy this material really is to work with.

Perhaps most commonly used for packaging coffee beans and wrapping tree roots, burlap has seen a resurgence in DIY projects recently while maintaining its small price tag (I found burlap for $6.50/yard in a variety of colors, including prints!). Many have embraced the fabric for rustic weddings, seasonal decor and upholstery applications.

Ticking Stripe:
Ticking stripe, also called mattress ticking, began as a ubiquitous fabric that covered nearly every mattress in every home over the last century. Though this printed cotton has been replaced for that purposed but shouldn't be forgotten about entirely. Upholstery-weight ticking stripe operates like a neutral on furniture and can be purchased for about $7! It's a classic that won't soon go out of style.

Kraft Paper:
When it comes to wrapping a package, it's best to keep it simple in my opinion and kraft paper is often my go-to wrapping paper. Aside from gift-giving, kraft paper is a great raw material for paint and ink. A 30' roll is less than $8!

There you have it: 7 utilitarian materials that are great starting points for affordable DIYs. Have you used any of these utility materials for projects around your home?

Are there other affordable supplies that you've reimagined for crafts? I'd love to hear them!

P.S. Don't forget to comment here for a chance to win my lamp giveaway! Contest ends on Sunday night!


  1. Good reminder to look in some unexpected places for some great resources. I think using the basic foundations like craft paper or piping really let you add some of your own style or design elements to the project. Now you’ve inspired me to come up with a way to rethink some everyday items into design pieces to blog about too… thanks!

  2. fun post--can't wait to see where you go with this!

  3. Very creative!! Wonderful images and ideas!

  4. I wish my brain worked like that. Ii love the craft table runners. Maybe I could do that!

  5. Such a great post! I am working on a project now with one of those materials but you've got my mind spinning now with so many more possibilities.

  6. Okay, so I pretty much love each and every one of these projects, especially the floor runner made out of webbing. Perfect for a mudroom or kitchen.

  7. Great examples. I've been having a three-year love affair with rope.


I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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