The Spokesman Review, Spokane, Washington – Friday, November 2, 2001

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First published in Spokesman Review, Spokane, Washington
November 2, 2001

Trashy Tanzi

by Mary Beth BreckenridgeCarol Tanzi, the self-proclaimed Goddess of Garbage decorates with junk, but the results are hardly trashy. She creates furnishings from junk, transforming discards such as wheel rims and radiators into end tables and desks. Goddess of Garbage will raid thrift stores, dumpsters for materials. Give her a trash can, and she’ll create a dining table. To her, old radiators aren’t refuse; they’re legs for a trendy, industrial-look desk. Tanzi, an interior designer from Burlingame, Calif., calls herself the Goddess of Garbage because of her talent for turning trash into home furnishings

Although her sources for materials are places such as thrift stores and dumpsters, she doesn’t turn out rooms that look like they’re decorated in Early Salvation Army. This is stylish stuff.

“I don’t produce anything that I wouldn’t have in my own office or home,” Tanzi says. “People look at what I do, and they say, ‘l can’t believe it.’ Her “recyclized and designized” creations are her little way to save the Earth, and they’ll save a few bucks in the process.

Of course, it helps to have her talent for envisioning new uses for old items. As a child, she’d drink milk just so she could have the empty bottles to hold nasturtiums, she remembers. As an adult, she was shopping at Goodwill years before it was hip.

Still, people can develop the ability, she says. To get started, she has a suggestion: work backward. When you see something you like – say, a table or mirror – study its shape. Ask yourself whether its components remind you of something you’d normally throw away, such as old wood, plastic bottles or the polystyrene foam that’s used for packaging electronic equipment. Think about how you might replicate the look.

Don’t be afraid to ask businesses for things they don’t need. Upholsterers, mirror and glass shops, marble dealers, carpet stores and other businesses are often happy to get rid of scrap or unwanted items, either for free or at a bargain price, she says.

She also scavenges Dumpsters and curbside trash, but she always asks before taking. “Usually they help me put it in the car,” she says.

Some of her favorite ideas:

  • Make a furniture base by welding one automobile wheel rim atop another, then spray-painting the whole thing. Bases can be topped with upholstered plywood circles to make stools or marble scraps, slate or glass to make end tables or coffee tables. (See photo)
  • Decorate old king size sheets with acrylic paint to use as draperies or furniture covers. You might even ask the head of a hotel’s housekeeping department to give you the sheets it can’t use anymore.
  • Set an old door atop four equal-size radiators to make a desk, or use two radiators and a piece of glass to make a contemporary console table. (See photo)
  • Turn polystyrene packing materials into wall hangings, picture or mirror frames, wine racks, end tables or anything else their unusual shapes suggest. The polystyrene pieces can be glued together, then Tanzi recommends giving them texture by covering them with colored tissue paper that’s been crumpled, flattened and applied with white glue. You might add fun decorations such as game pieces, jewelry or tassels, chosen to carry out any theme you choose. 

You can see some of Tanzi’s designs on her Web site, http:// You might find some ideas for your home.

Tanzi promised you’ll get more than new furniture and accessories out of the process. You’ll get the satisfaction of making something yourself.

This article also appeared in the Ohio Beacon Journal, Saturday, September 22, 2001.