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By LaReeca Rucker for The Clarion Ledger

Clarion, MS --Fueled by the economy, environmental awareness and a creative desire to be innovative, repurposing definitely has a purpose.

The decor style, which first gained popularity in 1989 with designers such as California's Rachel Ashwell of Shabby Chic fame, has been updated and propelled by Pinterest.com.

Log on, and you'll see pin after pin inspiring Mississippians to shop flea markets and thrift stores.

Mary Katherine McKelroy is among those promoting the trend as she takes over The Green Room in Fondren, Mississippi, selling pieces she refurbishes.

"I wouldn't call it 'shabby chic,' which is sort of a dated term that describes a French country and lace weathered look," said McKelroy. "I think of it more as a combination of the environmentally friendly idea of repurposing and reusing, and the search for a little zip, pizzazz and fun in the items you surround yourself with."

Going green has a lot to do with it, she said.

"Americans have a propensity for using and then throwing away ... the latest, newest, trendiest, shiniest items," she said, "when in fact, items with history and whimsy can have more meaning."

Debbie Bushing and her husband, Curt, sell antiques in the back room of The Flowood Flea Market, in Flowood, MS.

"Right before school started this year, I can't tell you how many doors we sold for girls who wanted them for headboards in their apartment," she said. "At Christmas, we sold a ton of old shutters for people to clip photographs on."

Bushing said she and her husband have made lights out of old trombones and mixer whisks, created a chandelier out of a tornado siren, built hall trees from old doors, transformed an old coffee cart into a chaise lounge, and crafted benches from old metal headboards using reclaimed wood and metal.

"We got a couple of pieces of old pinball machines, and we are about to make furniture out of that," she said. "We try to do something with a little bit of a twist to it, something everybody else doesn't have."

Bushing said television programs like American Pickers and Picker Sisters are also influencing the trend.

"Maybe it's just bringing to the forefront something that people haven't really thought about before," she said.

Ridgeland, MS resident Amy Partridge began repurposing last year. One project turned a dresser into a diaper changing station.

"I think the trend pulls a rustic, antique and modern feel all into one," she said. "The colors really pop. You don't have to go completely antique or completely modern with this look.

"If you have older pieces handed down from the family that you don't want to redo, you can add them in."

Richland resident Nicole Nelson has a booth at The Flowood Flea Market that displays a claw foot tub converted into a couch reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn's in Breakfast At Tiffany's.

She said repurposing seems to be a blend of shabby chic, Tuscan, French, old European and baroque chic styles.

"I'm drawn to the shabby French, old European style with muted colors and lace," she said.

Flea market vendor Linda Sanders of Clinton calls it cottage style.

"I've painted furniture all my life, even way back before Rachel Ashwell came out with shabby chic," she said. "There are a lot of different styles of shabby chic - modern, posh, cottage or Victorian."

She believes the economy is fueling the trend.

"They are saving a lot of money by redoing their own furniture," she said. "Even as the economy picks up, I think people will be fond of this decorating style."

Beth Miller, director of interior design at Mississippi State University, said part of the trend originated in England.

"In the U.S., we have taken it to a little different level, and many pieces take on a new life and become repurposed," Miller said, adding that some think of it as a revolt against mass consumer consumption.

Amy Sugg, who sells Amy's Antiques and Gifts at the Flowood Flea Market, said it's fueled by Pinterest.com.

"That has been a real key element in a lot of people's creativity," she said. "I've had people tell me all kinds of things they are repurposing. It's a great way to tie in that old family heirloom."

Sugg said it signifies that we no longer are taking the elements of our past for granted.

"I would say 80 percent of our community still farms/gardens, and we are still using things they did back then," she said. "An old farm door or a piece of tin was nothing to us five years ago, whereas Pinterest has made it popular. You can go to your grandma's and find half of this stuff in her barn or shed."

Sugg said a good deal of interest is coming from the younger generation - teens to mid-20s.

"A girl came in the other day and said she found a rake that she was going to cut the handle off, mount it some way, and turn it into a wine glass holder," she said. "She was just tickled pink finding an old rake, and I'm thinking 'OK.' "

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