By Joanne H. Shawcross

I love old-fashioned hardware stores. Unfortunately, they are becoming rare, so you may never have shopped there. I was lucky enough to grow up when every town had one.

Ours was named “Durfee’s,” in a building not so wide as it was deep and dark, zig-zagged with long shelves jammed with bins and boxes, drawers and jars, barrels and cubbies to reach into.

Why was it so great? Because it was an excellent place to find odd and unusual things that could be useful and even re-purposed back at home.

You could pick up a gadget, turn it over, carry it around and combine it with other wonderful and mysterious things. Because you didn’t always know what this ‘thing’ was “supposed to be used for,” you could sometimes invent any use you wanted.

Hardware stores are fabulous resources for expressing your own personality in your home and garden. Take your home office and think: I need a thing to organize my stapler, clips and note pads. Maybe use a wire bin originally meant for sorting screws and washers.

Wander about – let your imagination float free, and ignore labels and ‘the typical’ uses. Just think: I need a container about five inches tall or so…

The containers by my kitchen sink came from the bathroom accessories department because the color and shape were just what I needed there.

My favorite ‘Rolodex’ name/phone file is a handsome stand with flip sleeves originally meant as a photo album.

The kitchen gadget department has all kinds of quirky objects to trim a picture frame, or make into a child’s mobile. Maybe even mix together different objects along with tiles for a section of bath or kitchen wall?

Besides hardware for wonderful treasures, explore salvage and thrift shops, rummage sales and out-of-the-way old stores where things are not pre-selected, pre-packaged, taped up and shrink-wrapped.

Got any other secret places that you find great stuff? Why not share with us here.

In the meantime, Mr. Durfee, where are you when we need you?!

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