By: Michael Timmermans

Second-year interior decorating student Fanny Gauthier sits on an upcycled chair made of Tim Hortons’ cups. Gauthier and her fellow students displayed furniture made of repurposed materials at the Home and Design show in September.


Algonquin interior decorating students proved to be up to a tough challenge at Ottawa’s Home and Design Show.

The second-year students displayed furniture projects at the show which took place Sept. 27 – 29. The pieces were all “upcycled.” With a zero dollar budget, all materials had to be recovered and repurposed. Recycled materials, broken furniture and unwanted items left at the end of driveways were saved from landfill and used in the pieces.

“I believe as a culture we need to be more aware of the amount of objects and materials that are thrown out and use up space in landfills,” said S.J. Normand, coordinator of the interior decorating program.

“If we can find alternate ways of reusing, recycling and repurposing objects, we can show others that they should think carefully before placing them in the garbage at the end of their laneways,” she said.

But, Normand pointed out, upcycling is about more than style. For this project, seats had to support at least 200 pounds and tables, 50.

Bids on the furniture items were accepted all weekend in a silent auction benefitting Habitat for Humanity. A total of $665 was raised for the charity, which builds affordable housing. The piece that received the highest bid was a periodic table of elements-themed table at $155.

Fanny Gauthier, second-year interior decorating student, worked on a team that produced a chair made of Tim Hortons’ cups. The piece is a “statement on recycling,” said Gauthier, and took 20 hours to put together.

“It opens our eyes to see objects differently in our environment,” she said.

Gauthier sees “trends towards do-it-yourself projects” in the industry.

“It seems trendy and interesting to have parts that are reused” in decor pieces, she said.

The students started the projects in their first-year history of furniture course. The best 11 were featured in the exhibit at the design show. These included the Tim Hortons’ cup chair, a shelf constructed of hockey sticks and a toboggan, a metal coffee table supported by copper plumbing and a lounge chair woven out of plastic bags.

Sustainability is important to Austin George, also an interior decorating student who helped build the hockey stick shelf.

“It helps us understand all the different things that are being thrown out that can still be used, that we can still put into peoples’ homes as furniture and accessories without having to send it into landfill,” said George.

Joey Crawford, who also participated in the project, sees another side to repurposing.

“Everyone is into green furniture and green design,” he said.

“To be able to take something that someone already has or would like to use is a big money-maker right now.”

Crawford, who designed and constructed a chaise lounge chair with his teammates, learned a lot from the project.

“Being able to apply ourselves and do the ‘real life’ was a good learning tool,” he said.

His colleague Isabelle Durocher enjoyed seeing the reaction of the show attendees.

“It’s fun to see, because we started this project last year. There was drawing, selecting the final 11 and then they finally came to life,” said Durocher, a second-year interior decorating student.

Students from the program are sure to be representing Algonquin again at next year’s Home and Design Show.

“This project has been around for three years,” said Normand. “Students enjoy seeing their vision come to life.”