Old clothes, plastic bottles, bulbs — it doesn't matter what — you can turn them into signature items which beats picking up things off the shelf, reports Aruna V. Iyer

Broken china, a torn saree, old cardboard — just junk to be thrown out every time we clean our homes? Not really; remember the slogan, “Reduce, Recycle, Reuse”. Here's how you can put all the stuff you're ready to junk to good use.

Take Meena Gayathri, a student of architecture and interior design, for instance. The wall behind the door in her room has a hand painted label that reads ‘My Favourite Corner' in calligraphic font. Stuck randomly around this are old photographs of her family, with handwritten captions tagging the memories frozen in each. “These were sleeping in some album which nobody had the time to look through, but today they each tell a story and I see them every time I shut my door!” says Meena. Her walls are full of frames of her art work, right from the stereotypical house drawn as a child, to her present day specialisation in Madhubani paintings, with peacock and flower motifs.

She's heavily into makeovers: “My table runners and some of my bags come from faded dupattas that I painted or dyed; my umbrella/chart holders are painted two litre bottles, whose necks I cut off; and there are old glass bottles on which I've used glass paints to use as vases and holders. Now, the diffused light coming out of a glass bulb holder I painted is just lovely,” she adds with a smile.

“It's all about signature stuff these days — people don't want to just pick items off the shelf and put them where they look pretty,” says Samad, architect and interior designer. But before you set out to design your house or room, you may want to know the ground rules. To begin with, Samad says that the shell of the structure is like the body and gives your design expression. The soul of this body is the concepts that define your interiors. “The wall, ceiling and the floor are the three elements that will bear your designs in any room. The size of the room and the furniture in it must be in proportion; the colour schemes you use, starting from the paint you may choose for a single wall, to the curtains, bedspreads and other fabrics used in the room must be in tandem. Ultimately designing interiors is an art, and the space you have is the canvas to express it,” he explains.

For people like Shreya Mehta and Karthick Chickoo, their art work hasn't stopped with adorning their own homes. Shreya plans to open a boutique soon, where she will sell her handmade stuff. “It will all be highly customized, and will sell because there is no other piece like the one that was just billed,” she says with a laugh.

She uses old calendars, shoe boxes, broken tiles, old clothes, left over plywood, old nail paint, and beads on fancy wedding cards to make her junk art. They are apparent in the tea cups she has painted, the notebooks she's made by cutting handmade paper and binding them together and her paintings inspired by folk art. She regularly makes greeting cards and wedding cards which are hugely popular with friends and family. “We print replicas of the cards I make and give them away on occasions to my father's business contacts too,” she adds; she displays some of her works too. “For a long time, painting and craft work have been my steady hobbies. It's time to make more out of it!” she says.

Karthik Chickoo's works and his shop De One Studio are on Facebook, where it says it is a start-up by two random guys. “We do experimental work — bamboo boxes, signboards, bongs, tags and personalized accessories.

"Like our page reads, if you can come up with an idea, we can fabricate it and customize it,” says Chickoo. He paints motifs on walls, draws 3D designs on the floor using chalk, uses old light bulbs as oil lamps or vaporizers, makes decorative pieces with paper folding techniques, carves faces out of soap and makes structures using one rupee coins among others.

So, the next time you do decide to do some spring cleaning, don't just junk stuff, look around to see if there is anything that you can recycle and reuse.