Salvation: How to Decorate with Found Objects

As one resourceful, artistic homeowner demonstrates, decorating with found objects creates an authentic look and an ironic beauty that can’t be replicated.


| July/August 2001


Walking into John and Linda Thomas’s apartment, one feels a sense of symmetry. Faded old doors exhibit soft patinas of green and blue, while well-worn windows see new life as kitchen cabinets. Old truck parts and pieces of abandoned cabins serve as dressing tables, coat hooks, and spice cabinets. Upon close inspection, a pair of windows in the kitchen turns out to be an illusion; one is a window, one a framed mirror. A trio of pediment-topped windows with frosted glass let in tons of soft light. In this house, almost everything is old, but with a wonderful sense of irony, everything is new again.

John Thomas is a quintessential artist. No matter what he undertakes, he guides a project with his artist’s eye. His work has spanned several genres, including cinema, photography, and performance art. He has designed furniture, built homes, and taught college art classes, each with aplomb.

His most recent project is the Durango, Colorado, home he shares with his wife, Linda. One could more accurately call it a compound. He bought the house (now divided into apartments), a small parcel of land, and several outbuildings more than a decade ago from an eighty-year-old man who had lived there most of his life. “I asked him to stay,” recounts John. “But he decided to move on.” This gentleman left behind a decades-old accumulation of stuff: piles of old doors and windows, plumbing supplies, bicycles, bed frames, stacks of wood, and enough hardware to open a store. Others, less enlightened, might have seen the legacy as junk to be hauled away, but John saw only possibilities. “If somebody gave me a box of old paint, I would find a way to use it,” he says. “But what I had here was a property full of old stuff, so I’m finding a way to use that.”

It takes a special eye to turn a pile of debris into a cohesive design statement. “A basic principle of design is that similar things, grouped together, form harmonies,” John explains. “Dissimilar things tend to separate. What I’m doing here is taking dissimilar objects, found objects that have been affected by time, and these objects suddenly have a common simi­larity.” One of his favorite examples is an old car in a field; it’s an eyesore at first, but after a couple of years, it softens and blends with
the landscape. Time has become an element of the design.

Another trick John uses is to give dissimilar objects a similar function so that the mind groups them together to create harmony. The house entry area is a case in point. One door had part of the top rotted away at a strange angle, so John fashioned the frame around it to match the missing piece. Instead of looking broken and weird, the door looks like it was meant to be. John drew inspiration for the concept from an Anasazi granary ruin he came across while hiking in Utah. “The granary had a little door opening, about one foot by two foot, and right next to it was a flat piece of flagstone. The opening was made out of mud and carved to the exact shape of the stone. When you put the rock into that opening, it fit like a suction cup. The beauty of that, the detail, inspired me to come back and scribe things to fit other things, without using right angles.” To wit, light switches are affixed in old knotholes, and boards converge along wavy lines to form door headers.

The result isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, although it hasn’t detracted people from lining up to rent apartments from the Thomases. “People come in to look at an apartment, and they either get it, or they don’t,” says Linda. “Those who don’t would never be able to live here.”





mother earth news fair 2018 schedule

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Sit in on dozens of practical workshops from the leading authorities on natural health, organic gardening, real food and more!

LEARN MORE



Subscribe today and save 58%

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living !

Mother Earth LivingWelcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.




Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter


Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265