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Natural Awakenings Bucks and Montgomery Counties PA

A Glorious Permaclutter

Mar 31, 2016 08:00AM

by Stephanie Lee Jackson

permaculture: a system of cultivation intended to maintain permanent agriculture by relying on renewable resources and a self-sustaining ecosystem.

Americans have a junk storage habit. The Self Storage Association estimates that there are 2.3 billion square feet of storage space in the United States, enough for every citizen to stand in a storage unit simultaneously and not get rained on. That space is nearly full—of inherited furniture, broken typewriters, baseball bats, cast-iron pans, trophies, needlepoint and bad, bad novels.

That’s the sustainable decorator’s raw material. Not only does mining this clutter keep treasures out of the landfill, but the results often have more intimacy and flair than an Architectural Digest showcase.

What IKEA concoction can compare to the joy of digging out an heirloom and designing a room around it? The border on an antique rug informs an accent wall color. A silver-plated teapot, too battered to sell and too pretty to throw away—what a fabulous herb planter. That cupboard full of candle holders, cleaned up and distributed, turns any room into the set of Downton Abbey.

Even old cans of paint, generally considered a toxic-waste disposal problem, can become the feature piece of a home design. Draw some sketches on a wall or staircase risers, fill in the colors, and a site-specific custom mural emerges.  Bored with it? Just paint over it; no storage required.

Accumulated stuff can be a burden, or it can be the potential energy that roars into life with the touch of an inspired hand. Home design becomes home permaculture—nothing is wasted, and everything is transformed.

CRG_Permaclutter_StephanieLeeJacksonStephanie Lee Jackson is an artist, designer and healer. Her company, Practical Sanctuary, helps create spaces that allow both customers and their clients to feel the way they want to—inspired, powerful and calm. Visit for a free Sanctuary Session. See listing, page 43.

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