Any Rehab Addict fan knows that Nicole Curtis isn't afraid to Dumpster dive. "I still have a coffee table that I got from my neighbor's trash 20 years ago," says the 40-year-old Detroit native. That mentality extends to her house flips too—she's been known to pull everything from light fixtures to windows out of the rumble pile for use in her projects. Her love of saving things goes back to childhood, when her family owned a garbage business. (Seeing perfectly salvageable furniture go from the sidewalk to the trash compactor left an impression on young Nicole.)
Recently, Curtis sat down with Ikaroo.info to discuss her upcoming book, , which hits shelves Oct. 18., and her partnership with handheld-torch manufacturer Bernzomatic for an initiative that will award to problem-solving makers. While here, she shared some of her favorite tips for reusing and repurposing salvage materials:
1. Get there before the garbage truck.
"You can repair almost anything," says Curtis. Even though she no longer needs to scour the sidewalks for building materials (she's much more financially secure now than she was in her earlier days) she still hates for anything to go to waste. "I'll post on my Facebook page like, listen, there's a great something on the corner of this street, come and get it," she adds.
2. Collect natural materials.
Don't bother with plastic, which is hard to "redo," advises Curtis. Instead, opt for quality natural materials, like wood, and metal. Even basic pressboard, which costs about $25 new, is worth snagging from Craigslist for a few bucks. "If your dresser breaks down and you have a drawer leftover—I've made so many things with dresser drawers," she adds.
3. Be specific about what you need.
When Curtis first started flipping houses, even minor components like bathroom fixtures had to be procured for cheap. "I'd be like I need a wall sink today. Well, a wall sink is about $150 and when I'm working with zero budget I'd joke, 'I'm putting it out there, I need a wall sink' and, sure enough, I was driving down the road one day and on the side of the road was a wall sink."
4. Keep a junk drawer.
"I have this ridiculous drawer full of rivet, twine, and things like packaging that comes in [the mail]," says Curtis. "I wouldn't suggest [keeping things] to a point where you're hoarding and it takes over your dining room, but just a drawer."
5. Add excitement with a blow torch.
Using a handheld torch for DIY projects is fun and empowering, says Curtis. "Or you can just light candles around your house [with one] because I do that as well."
6. Embrace your disasters.
Curtis takes a learning approach to mistakes. "Sometimes I look back and go, wow, that was a disaster, but it's the disasters that give you the success later on," she says.
7. Give it a personal touch.
"You don't want to go into [a home] and see this store-bought picture frame that you're going to see in everyone else's house," says Curtis. "Making something out of scraps of wood—even if it doesn't work out and people are like what is that?—the fun you can have in making it is worthwhile."
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