This,….. is Upcycling?

Quick, what do you think of when you hear the word “upcycled”?

Most of us can’t think past something akin to grandma’s old mason jars that held her peach preserves but are now drinking glasses or a vase filled with flowers. Or that shabby chic dresser you did with chalk paint and sandpaper. That’s the old viewpoint; Upcycling has changed, and you’re gonna be surprised at how sophisticated it has become in the right design hands.

Upcycling, despite being a relatively new term isn’t a new concept. It’s taking consumer materials and refashioning it into newer items with a different purpose – oftentimes a better one than originally meant. A routine practice throughout the centuries, repurposing aka upcycling  items into other useful things started to decline after the second world war when the disposable society was in its infancy. By the end of the 20th century the idea of upcycling was practically lost on most consumers, excluding the recycling of simple items like glass, paper and metal. Everything else became a “throw-away” because, well, it was just easier. The modern notion that nothing is really worth long term value is evident in the 13 million tons of furnishings we throw away every year in the USA alone oftentimes replacing those items with similar or inferior quality for yet, another short term run.


Upcycled Crema Marble scraps turned into chic side tables. Design by Carter Averbeck for Omforme Design

Upcycled Crema Marble scraps turned into chic side tables. Design by Carter Averbeck for Omforme Design

Eco Playgrounds

Now that the new millenia has many people looking simultaneously forward towards earth friendly products and back to the practice of repurposing items; a renewed expression has spread throughout the design industry in making truly “design worthy” items from older materials. This is the era of green, of eco-friendliness, it’s the playground on which we play on at Omforme.

Our goal with upcycling is to design an item so well that you’d never guess what the previous life of the materials were. Remnants of unused marble become designer tables, garden gazing globes become pendant lights, a tired wooden window screen becomes a sculptural table without so much of a trace as to its former life.



Upcycling ain’t Recycling

Changing the paradigm of how consumers think about upcycling isn’t an easy task. For one, consumers are assuming it’s the same as recycling but it is not. Recycling breaks down materials in order to make the same or lesser material from it. Upcycling is reinventing the usage of an object, bringing up the value more often than not. The chic little side tables shown above made from marble remnants with liquid silver/ gold trim perched ontop of art deco bases are a prime example of how upcycling can be more design savvy than most of us realize. Or the recycled garden globes that your granny used to have, pictured below, now reused as chic pendant lighting that truly makes an impact surpassing that of mass marketed fixtures of the same style.


By elevating humble materials to drool worthy designer status or offering reimagined older furnishings that look every bit as good as their newer, more expensive counterparts makes the case for stunning use of upcycling as a medium that can hold it’s own against brand new goods.

Our current collaboration with Circa Gallery shows off the inventiveness bred at Omforme by pairing our upcycled furniture offerings with one of the Twin Cities best galleries for modern and abstract art. On first take, all the items looked newly made. Most people were hard pressed to believe these furnishings were created from up cycled material. It was only when we showed them original photos of the materials in their former state that we were believed. This exhibition opened the mind to many that we have to start thinking smarter about how we consume, and how we can repurpose items in clever ways that work for today’s aesthetic.


Uncommon Upcycling: An architecturally crafted table is made from an old wooden window screen. Design by Andy Brown for Omforme Design.


Loss of (Color) Vision


Children aren’t afraid of color, so why are adults so scared?

When we were kids, color was our friend. It stimulated us, gave us joy and allowed us to explore our minds and develop a more fully rounded experience towards creative thought. We weren’t afraid. Somewhere along the path of growing up, most of us lost our attraction to color. It’s as if we’ve become afraid that somehow, adding color back into our lives is too much of a commitment. So we choose neutrals and eschew color for the most part – except in bits and pieces. What once made most of us happy is now something we fear,….it’s time to change that mode of thinking.

We did this colorful column out of upcycled paint can lids in just about every color imaginable for a children’s dental clinic in Excelsior MN. Now instead of a dental office being a place to dread, it’s a place of joy and fun for the patients who come here. It’s amazing how much color, or the lack thereof, can affect a person’s psyche.

“What once made most of us happy is now something we fear”

The design industry tells us that neutrals are always the way to go: the typical reasonings are that neutrals are easy to live with and provide a calming retreat. But nature already does this. The sand dunes of the desert, or the beaches, forests and rocky mountains all provide that calming palette many of us strive for and yet they also pack in loads of wonderful, spectacular color. Conversely, most of us stick with beige, brown or grey in our homes and barely venture into color territory except in the form of a pillow or some other small item. It’s almost as if we’re telling nature we don’t really want to live with all that color inside our homes,..but it’s perfectly fine, uh, outside. My questions is why? What are you really scared of?

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Think about it, will adding color back into your life completely derail you? Will it destroy your existence? Probably not. Nature provided color for a reason: so that we can experience all kinds of wonderful and emotional stimuli that color can bring. I often ask my clients a very simple question when I start to work with them on the interior design of their home; I ask what their favorite color is. What I get as a response is hardly ever a neutral shade, but mostly blues, reds, greens. Yet I see no evidence of any of those colors in their interiors.

There are also times when I ask the same question and the response is just a rumbling of neutrals as if the client is scared of not seeming sophisticated if they named an actual color other than grey, beige or white. I found one client who couldn’t even come up with a favorite color when asked. I noticed she had a garden in her back yard, a beautiful one, so I changed the question: what color do you gravitate to most in your garden? In an instant I got my answer, “I love deep pinks, reds and white”,..Bingo! I then got to work incorporating those colors into the home and it proved to be the missing ingredient the client never knew she needed in order to be happy within her four walls. Sometimes, going too neutral makes a room lifeless. That’s not what nature intended for us to live in, so why restrict yourself from the joy of color? Go out and start to add color into your life. It won’t kill you and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be better off for it!

Color lives here

Hanging with Ty

While showing our hard work with furniture transformations at the Home & Garden Show in Minneapolis, we got the chance to hang out for a little while with Ty Pennington. Ty and his crew swarmed into our little booth like a tornado of energy yet a few moments with Ty reveals an authentic guy who still, after all these years in TV, has complete passion for transforming items from furniture to homes and everything in between. He is a trueIMG_4782

He admits to finding curbside treasures exhilarating, mostly because his imagination goes wild with ideas. How often do you hear that from a celebrity who doesn’t have to dig curbside anymore? He states it like this: It’s the exploration of “what can be” that is the enticing part of any transformation. The knowing that something good can come from something neglected or mundane. That kind of positivity is infectious and yep, it certainly was just that when Ty decided to stop over to our booth and give us the thumbs up! Thanks Ty,……you’re an awesome guy!!!IMG_4775

You Don’t Have to Act Your Age


It takes a long time to become young (at heart) ~ Pablo Picasso


Everything ages, nothing is exempt. Not you, not me, nor the things we create.

With the daily barrage of advertising telling us to buy “new”, it’s no wonder many of us are led to believe that it’s the only path towards a quality life filled with things we supposedly love.  This, is meretriciousness at it’s best and if you believe that only new stuff is the best way to go than allow me to enlighten you with a few tips on why “new” isn’t the only path towards a full and happy life.

I’m a huge believer in transformations. They can completely affect a way a person sees, thinks, acts or moves. Transformations give us hope that beautiful things can come out of the doldrums, the ashes and a host of other sayings each and every one of us has learned about being positive. It’s why so many are drawn to viewing Before & After photos of stuff. Transformations show us that things as well as people do have value. Sometimes all it takes is a little stepping outside of your comfort (read stagnant) zone in order to experience something just a little better.





Recently I had a woman stop in our shop to talk about transforming a piece of furniture she owned. When she realized literally anything could be done, a huge sigh of relief came about as if we were allowing her to be who she was for the very first time. Her response said it all: “ I have been afraid of what I like for a long time.  I have always liked things that are different, and I think I am starting to get to an age that I just don’t care what others think. If I like it, I like it. I want to be young at heart again. To do that, I’m going to go for it and fill my house with color!”   Seems like such a simple recipe yes? Yet it takes such a long time for many of us to get there. 

Here are some tips to help you transform your interior and furniture by removing your fears and pushing forth:

1) Buy $70 worth of interior design magazines and pour through them, ripping out anything and everything you like. Eventually you’ll start to see consistency in your style choices. If you can’t afford the magazines, then utilizing websites like Pinterest to research style ideas is free.

2) Step outside your “go to” comfort zone style-wise. Keeping fresh means adopting an open mind toward what the new trends are. Paint is the cheapest and easiest way to change anything – a room, a table, a chair. It’s reversible if you don’t like it so you can stop worrying about whether or not you’re picking the “right” color.

3) Stop worrying about the “right” color and just pick one you love. It’s akin to being authentic, The more true you are to yourself the more your home will reflect that. It’s you who lives there – not your neighbors. Please yourself first and march to the beat of your own drum.

4) Refinishing a piece of furniture doesn’t mean you have to go back to original – unless that is what you like. Don’t be afraid to experiement. Sometimes great things can come of it. If you need to see inspirations, all you have to do is go to our before & after section on our website or any of our social media outlets like facebook or instagram.

5) Much of our inspiration at Omforme comes from trends in fashion as well as interior design. Current trends are important as we go forth in restyling a chair or sofa. Find inspiring images before you begin any project and you’ll have the motivation to go for it.

7) Give yourself permission to change. We look at it like this: change is good. It’s like trading in your old outdated haircut for a new one. You can get such a new lease by just opting for these small changes. You can certainly do this with the items you have in your household. That tired old dresser can be refreshed with just a bit of imagination, know-how or knowledge of a place where it can happen.




Everything old is new again is as true a statement now as when it was first uttered by Peter Allen decades ago. You don’t have to act your age and neither does your furniture. Old can be repurposed in lively fashion true to your style and mixed with new items for an eclectic and wonderful environment that speaks of you.





Maybe it’s about the quality I see underneath the surface of things. Maybe it’s because I’m a dreamer and can see potential in the transformation of an object that others miss. Maybe it’s because I’m more hopeful that with a little ingenuity, I can be a part of making something come back to life. Maybe it’s because my mind doesn’t think like an old person but a young one instead.


Gratitude is Everything

Getting noticed, even when you’re not seeking it, can be the most rewarding thing. That’s what happened to me at Omforme when a celebrated news reporter from the Star Tribune decided to do a story on Omforme. Writer Kim Palmer sat down with me to chat about all kinds of things regarding Omforme, designing, puppies, poems and more. What she wrote was nothing less than spectacular and I can’t thank her enough for such great content. Click on the photo to be taken to Kim’s article on Omforme.

At Home With Carter Averbeck of Omforme Design


click photo for link to article


And A few more photos of my home. Of course it’s always in transition,..I like too many styles so it’s always in the mix that makes things, and life, interesting.





Trading Birkenstocks For Tattoos: A Neighborhood Revival

In Minneapolis, like any other major metropolitan city, there are neighborhoods that shine with success and others that fall a little short of that goal in varying degrees. The Uptown area of Minneapolis has long enjoyed its resurgence as a trendy place as a destination spot for local residents. The Wedge neighborhood, which saddles up to Uptown to the east, seemed to lag behind as the granola tinged area where hippies more than hipsters called home. National chains like Apple and Victoria’s Secret invaded uptown as the next progression of commerce began and forced out mom and pop shops turning uptown into more like a suburban experience. Meanwhile, uptown’s disheveled sister to the east started its transformation from ugly duckling to beautiful swan-like rebirth complete with no less than nine new businesses locating themselves along Lyndale Avenue between Franklin and Lake Street.

With this revival comes a shaking off of the old images a bedraggled Wedge are to the more trendier LoHi East moniker which the long forgotten historical name was Lowry Hill East. The rebranding effort was started by Carter Averbeck, owner of Omforme, a home decor boutique specializing in restyled vintage furnishings and modern design. Several other businesses such as Pharmacie, Proper & Prim, Showroom have joined in the rebranding effort. It certainly helps that new restaurants like World Street Kitchen and Heyday add to the hipster vibe appeal.

New luxury apartment complexes have also added fuel to the area helping foster small businesses as a new set of residents explore the neighborhood in search of cool place to shop and hang out in. As Averbeck puts it: “We’re trading our birkenstocks for tattoos.” LoHi East is fast becoming the arty, edgy area filled with what Uptown used to have but lost – which is a blessing for those who have long waited for the tide to turn. Apparently it has and in LoHi East, there seems to be no stopping the tide towards a revival of a beautiful kind.


Look Book 2014: Summer of Colour



OMFORME June 22 2014 MPLS  Carter Averbeck (5 of 55)

Click on the Sofa to go to our Look Book Catalogue

Our Lookbook is here for Summer and it’s filled with a bounty of joyous colour! One of our favorites is the 1970s floating linear sofa restyled in Ombre panne’ velvet in smoky shades of warm greys. Please click on the sofa above to get a gander at the catalogue of offerings.

Little Shop of Transformations


Nestled inside a strip of antiquated storefronts lies a tiny furniture shop filled with big ideas.

Ideas about moving forward with interior design by moving backwards from our disposable lifestyles. A  shop where old furnishings go for a facelift and come out of the chrysalis like a colorful butterfly. A shop packed with  imagination using reclaimed materials left for scrap from the building and interior design industries to create modern home goods that play nicely off the updated vintage finds. A shop that holds its own in the realm of established international furniture showrooms by supporting top local furniture and product designers that rival the competition in style, quality and price.


Upon entering, there’s the immediate realization that this place does not exude the familial safety that sometimes defines the midwestern aesthetic but one that shakes up the status quo of what we think a vintage store should be and challenges our notions of how to live,..well,..a more colorful life outside our coveted colloquial neutrals. It is a little shop of transformations and you can call it Omforme.

“It all started with a chair on the street”, is  the statement on the website, but in reality, Omforme’s owner has been doing this kind of work his entire life. Carter Averbeck grew up in a  DIY family and learned early on that the benefits of transforming through found materials can yield results that are set apart from store bought merchandise.

“Our house was never plain nor did it look like it came out of a catalogue. We were an unusually crafty bunch!”

Case in point: A once dusty set of chairs more than a century old are now displayed in glory after a full transformation into trendy fabrics of bright  limes and turquoise that belie their original age. Carter says they’re ready for the next 100 years because they’re built to last, in contrast to much of today’s furniture which is meant to be replaced after a shorter period of time.


Setting aside the eco-friendly aspect of saving furniture from a dump heap, Averbeck’s transformations seem positively gleeful with their renewed sense of value. He focuses on current style and trends and states that since furniture styles are like fashion, everything old is new again. But getting people to understand that buying previously owned furniture is a good value is a tough hurdle. “Let’s face it, our society loves new. We’ve been conditioned into thinking that’s the only route to go for a variety of reasons.” says Carter. Which is why Omforme also showcases modern furnishings crafted by top local talent such as WoodSport and Aaron Brand Designs among others.

 “Let’s face it, our society loves new. We’ve been conditioned into thinking that’s the only route to go for a variety of reasons.” ~Carter Averbeck

OMFORME June 22 2014 MPLS  Carter Averbeck (11 of 55)

The combination of adding new works by local craftspeople to vintage goods makes Omforme anything but a one note. The offerings change regularly and are from every era, packed with as much imagination as what goes into high end furnishings but without the cost factor. Averbeck wants everyone to be able to afford good furniture that speaks to their soul. Rarely does he repeat a design on any given transformed piece so there’s assurance that what comes from here is singularly unique. One step inside this tiny storefront gives way for one’s imagination to run wild with ideas on what to get, transform or create with found materials. Averbeck doesn’t mind, he likes it that way.





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Store Hours: Open by Appointment. Please call 855-663-6763 for a private tour of the showroom and to chat about how we can help you.