In the early 1980s, my parents led The Solana Recyclers, a still thriving organization dedicated to building environmental awareness in southern California. They were early pioneers in creating ways to make recycling as easy as possible for residents of California communities. With this personal history, it was fitting that I took on the task of making recycling convenient for David and Heather’s family at Howlets. If my parents could do it for southern California, surely I could do it for one house in Folly Cove.

We all stuggle with where to put all of the yogurt containers, wine bottles, milk jugs, newspapers and junk mail which we are encouraged to recycle these days.  Convenient and aesthetically-pleasing storage is a challenge. Such was the case in the kitchen at Howlets. There were no current cabinet areas that could be sacrificed to use as recycling space. Fortunately, there was an empty area next to the cellar stairs crying out for a custom-made recycling center.

Recycling made beautiful

With the help of Michael Tocantins, a Gloucester carpenter, we were able to create a spacious recycling corner which fits right in with the character of the 100-year-old house. The space now accommodates three pull out bays, each with two receptacles inside, an orgy of space for the mountains of glass, paper, metal and plastic that seem to multiply like rabbits in a family of cooks. A spot for just plain old everyday trash was also incorporated into the design.

Michael started by building a “carcass” for the recycling center. The “skin” of the recycling center was made from old storm shutters that we had unearthed in the basement. These are the same shutters that were also repurposed for a headboard. Check out the earlier post entitled “Are they shutters or a headboard?” for details on the history of these shutters. The weathered grey shutters were flipped upside down in order for the reveal on them to act as a place to slip your hand in to slide open the bins — no handles needed to sully the clean architectural lines of this piece. The inside sliding mechanisms were ordered from Reva Shelf.

Recycling made convenient

The wide and long counter top is the same granite material that we used on the other counter tops in the kitchen, a softly creme-veined black granite. There are also two electrical outlet plugs for charging cell phones and laptops sunk into the top of the counter surface. On the end of the unit are three light switches that control the kitchen and cellar lighting. As the counter is directly at an intersection of a traffic pattern that bisects the entry to the kitchen from the living room and the stairs to the cellar, this added counter space has also proved to be a helpful staging area for all items coming and going.

After a few adjustments of the sliding mechanisms and bins that were initially not functioning optimally, the management of the kitchen detritus at Howlets is now easier by far. One of the owners’ daughters told me that it is her favorite “thing” about the house.

I trust my mother, still serving on the Board of Directors of The Solana Center for Environmental Innovation (the organization’s new name), would approve.

Like mother, like son