AKRON, Ohio – What many people consider junk, Peggy Jacob and Carol Perry see as possibilities.
They can hardly bear to pass up an auction, an estate sale or sometimes even the curbside trash. To the two friends and business partners, those sources are treasure troves for their passion for repurposing.

The two operate the Hoarders Quarters in Barberton, Ohio, where they sell the used and off-price goods they’ve gathered. Many of those things they just clean up for resale, but what gives them the most satisfaction is finding new uses for old stuff – turning the end of a daybed into a garden gate, for instance, or making a birdbath from parts of old lamps and ceiling lights.

“You just stand back and go, ‘What use can I make out of this?’” Jacob said.

Reusing things is deeply rooted in our American DNA, but lately it’s gained a new cachet. It’s no longer just thrifty or even green to find creative reuses for salvage; now it’s also stylish.

For Jacob, it’s almost a compulsion. She sees a ladder and envisions a pot rack. She buys a TV armoire and imagines a puppet theater.

Perry admitted she was less of a visionary than her partner at first. Her motivation was just the thrill of the hunt. But when she turned some old bed parts into a bench, she knew she’d caught the repurposing bug.

Apparently consumers have caught the desire to own those items, too. Salvage chic is a big draw for customers of Hazel Tree Interiors, a West Akron, Ohio, business that encompasses home decor, picture framing and interior redesign, said Karen Starr, who owns the business with her husband, Jon Haidet.

Starr and Haidet sell items on consignment from a number of artists who specialize in repurposing – items such as a mirror made from a Firestone tractor tire mold by Russ Ensign, a 1960s end table decorated with a surfing scene by Teresa Bosko and a cocktail table made from gears, wheels and other steel parts by Michael McAlear.

Starr said she’s seen a big increase in interest in recycled items over the last year, although she’s not sure whether it’s because people like the green aspect or they’re just drawn to the look.

TV undoubtedly has fed the trend. Shows centering on salvage have proliferated on cable – “American Pickers” on the History Channel, “Cash & Cari” on HGTV and “Picker Sisters” on Lifetime, to name a few.

Damon Drummond is one of the artists who sells his work at Hazel Tree, as well as at the Bomb Shelter, the Akron salvage store he runs with partner Kevin Royer.

Drummond’s specialty is steampunk, an edgy look that’s heavy on industrial salvage and other relics of old technology – “stuff that’s out of the norm,” he said. He’ll make a table base out of an old industrial fan and some ceramic insulators, for example, or turn a heat lamp, a plow part and a dial caliper into a lamp.

Drummond said his inspiration comes largely from the many architectural magazines he reads. Often, he’ll use his binoculars to scan for finds in the metal scrap yard down the hill from the Bomb Shelter.
“I see everything in a different light,” he said.

Amy Hughes, features editor at This Old House magazine, is the author of the new book “Salvage-Style Projects” (Oxmoor House). Hughes loves the creativity involved in taking items out of their usual context and turning them into things for her home. “It does make a design statement,” she said.

Hughes relies on magazines and design books for inspiration. She also keeps an eye out for other people’s projects. When she sees one she likes, she’ll snap a picture with her iPhone.

While some people see salvage and envision a use for it, Hughes often works the other way around. She’ll identify a need and then go looking for the parts to create it.

For example, when she wanted a wall-hung bedside table for her compact New York apartment, she headed for a salvage yard. There she found a pair of porch brackets and a roof slate that were perfect for the project.

Sometimes, though, she just can’t pass up a find, even if she’s not sure what it will become. That was the case with a butler’s pantry door she salvaged from someone’s trash, a door with beautiful wood grain and a wax finish she wanted to showcase. She’s thinking of turning it into a door for an ironing board cabinet, thanks to a suggestion from a follower who responded to her call for ideas on her book’s Facebook page.

The Hoarders Quarters’ Jacob and Perry are each other’s sounding board. Although they’re often drawn to different kinds of castoffs, they share the thrill that comes from turning them into something beautiful or useful – or better yet, selling them to people who love them.

It’s not uncommon for them to work late into the night on their projects, laboring in a workshop in the basement of the building they share with Jacobs’ husband’s business, A+ Signs & Graphix. Perry’s husband, Paul, will often make repairs or do carpentry work, even while he’s complaining that something is just a piece of junk, she said with a laugh.

He wants her to quit so they can spend more time together, but Perry refuses.

It’s just sort of sad how happy we are doing this,” she said.