When NOT to Repurpose

Courtesy of Sturbridge Yankee Workshop

A great repurpose idea or a ruined rare antique.


When done correctly, I am all for the repurposing world.  Being in the antique business, I find that many of the “traditionalists” cringe when they see old pieces transformed into something different.  I live with one such traditionalist.  We’ve come to an agreement on when we can repurpose a piece, the idea being if it is totally worthless in its current shape and cannot possible be brought back to its original condition then I can repurpose it.  This works for me.

What makes me cringe is when we come across an antique piece that in its original condition is worth a lot of money and somebody has gone and changed it to make it almost worthless.

Perhaps it is ignorance, or an overactive creative gland, but last year we came across two Enterprise coffee grinders at two different auctions turned into lamps.  Yes…Lamps, 1873 folks!!!

Estimated value of the grinders: $400-$800.  Price of the lamp: $50.00.

Just recently, while perusing the upcoming antique auctions, we came across a Landers, Frary & Clark coffee grinder that had been turned into a lamp.  Estimated value of the grinder: $800-$1000.  It would be interesting to see what the lamp actually sold for.  I’m guessing less than $800, a lot less.

While we are on the subject of antiques being turned into lamps, this past spring my boyfriend and I were at a well-known antique show out by the coast.  It’s a great show with many repurposed items and many of them very well done.  I had just been able to stop my boyfriend from hyperventilating to the point where he was almost enjoying himself.  This is great, he said.  We should do one of these shows.  Repurpose some of our old items.  There may have even been a smile on his face.

Then we rounded a corner and came across another repurposed lamp.  This one was made from a sewing machine.  Sewing machines are my boyfriend’s passion.  We have several nice antique ones in our home.

The blood drained from his face as he looked down at this little machine where someone had drilled a hole to add the lamp and run the wiring.  Whoever did this probably thought it was quaint.  What an awesome idea.

Unfortunately, the sewing machine they used was a Shaw and Clark, circa 1860, with its great painted-flowers decoration still there.

Value of the sewing machine intact: $1000.00 and up

Value of the sewing machine/lamp: $25.00

My purpose in telling you all this is not to criticize those in the repurposing world.  But it is a warning.  Before you go drilling holes in something to turn it into a lamp (or other such repurposing idea) please, PLEASE, have the item you are about to modify appraised.

And if you are sitting on some cute little coffee grinder or sewing machine that is just collecting dust and think, wow, this would make a cute lamp…PLEASE call us or any reputable antiques dealer first.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s