The Green Project that Turned Me Blue

In Which I am Impressed by the Resalvage Community and Depressed by a Closet
The house I’m living in has no closets. This is common in New Orleans. In “the old days,” (vague time before now) houses in New Orleans were taxed based on the number of rooms they had, and rooms were determined by number of closets. Thus, my three-room house has no rooms. Tricky, tricky builder from “the olden days.”

My boyfriend and I have made ample use of bookshelves and dressers for storage, but the bedroom has become an unsightly sea of clothes that we are drowning in. We’ve looked into armoires, but they are costly and we’d have to get a huge one to store our stuff. I read a few posts on Design Sponge and Apartment Therapy that encouraged me that my boyfriend and I could build something on our own.

I was eager to find closet-solution materials at one of the organizations that formed post-Katrina to sell salvaged materials. In fact, 23 of these groups have formed an organization called The Reuse District, which promotes the awareness and accessibility of reused materials. Most are located in the 7th Ward, Bywater, St. Roch and St. Claude neighborhoods–areas that were heavily affect by Katrina.

The Green Project
The Green Project operates a warehouse store and lumberyard to sell building materials that otherwise would go into New Orleans Area landfills. They also solicit materials from the public, businesses, agencies and individuals. I was both impressed and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of STUFF at The Green Project. I wish I knew what to do with any of it. Fortunately, the Green Project does offer workshops where they teach you how to build various things–a friend showed us a bookshelf he made out of salvaged closet doors (oh the irony– we need both bookshelves and actual closets.)

Look at all of this stuff.

I wish I knew what to do with it.

How clever is this re-use?! Jealous of their creativity.

I stayed out. I did not want to get eaten.

Unfortunately, there weren’t any upcoming closet-building classes, but when I told one of the employees about the closet project, she suggested we buy brackets and a metal pole to lay within them. Easy enough, right?

Habitat for Humanity Restore
We also visited the Habitat for Humanity Restore. It was a bit smaller and cleaner than The Green Project. In addition to home goods it had the kind of items you’d find at a Goodwill: VHS tapes, books, etc. I was a little less intimidated by the space, simply because there were cute, hand-painted signs and ideas about what you could make with the materials.

“These murals are dedicated to all the citizens of New Orleans who are working to rebuild this great city and to everyone who has the courage to be the change they want to see in the world.” –sign by the murals.

The closet rod project took a few day and a few errands:

We borrowed a hacksaw and (my boyfriend) cut the metal pole.
We painted the brackets and pole.
We tried mounting the brackets, only to learn that we needed things called molly/toggle bolts.
We bought these things.
We mounted the closet rod!

It was glorious hanging up the overflowing boxes of dresses and shirts! When I was nearly done, I called my boyfriend in to bask in the cleanliness of our room and to exchange high fives. We even had space under the clothes to store things. LIKE WE WOULD IF WE HAD AN ACTUAL CLOSET.

“Do you think thing will actually hold up?” I asked.
“Yeah! The bolts are supposed to support up to 150 pounds of weight,” said my boyfriend, giving the rod a slight tap.

The bedroom, as of this blog post. Notice the holes in the walls.

A few more dresses later and the project collapsed into my hands. The brackets bent. The rod clattered to the floor.

I tell you, I was actually kind of depressed. One week and one visit to a visit to a Craigslisted armoire later, this is how our room looks.

We are currently considering one of these DIY solutions.
DIYRolling Rack
Hanging Closet
Hanging Closet 2
Hanging Branch Closet

Suggestions welcome.
Suggestions BEGGED.


This NIMBY declares her love for the West Bank.

I’m here to tell you I bought a brand new couch, I got an amazing deal on it and I got it on the West Bank.

The “West Bank” is actually the south side of the Mississippi River, when looking at a map of the New Orleans. However, in much of the country, the river does run north/south and divides the US into eastern and western halves. It’s a little confusing, especially because some parts of the “West Bank” lie east of the parts across the river.

People make fun of the the West Bank, so I assumed it was a generic suburb without the charm of the Crescent City. I had only been over there a few times when I lived here before–to go to an eye doctor and immediately return to New Orleans. But my boyfriend and I were in need of a couch, so when a friend* tipped me off about a Rooms to Go outlet there, we drove across the bridge.

Clawfoot tub storage for $7

Guys, THEY HAVE EVERYTHING OVER THERE. After buying the couch, we took it home in a truck we rented (by the hour) from the Home Depot directly next to the store. Additionally, this Rooms to Go is in a shopping center with a number of discount stores. We were able to find storage for our clawfoot tub for $7– previously we had found options that started at $40! The next day we returned to the West Bank to go to Target and tacked on a trip to Michaels and World Market. I know many of these options are available in Metarie, but everything on the West Bank is so close together. Plus you get amazing view of New Orleans!

Views of New Orleans, coming over the bridge.

I’ve said before that I get really turned off when big box stores permeate an area and erase a sense of place from the landscape. However, I take for granted that these chains benefit lots of communities. And I love shopping at them too. As we drove past large discount retailers (Ross, I’ll see you soon!) I grinned in delight. Our shotgun house still needs a lot of things, and it seems that I can find them all on the West Bank, at great prices!

Santi the cat enjoys the couch.

I appreciate New Orleans’ plethora of local businesses. Even though there are chains–Walmart, Home Depot and Lowes come to mind–independent retail is another aspect of the city that makes it unique. Having a car and living within a short drive of big box stores has made life easier. It was a challenge outfitting my apartment when I first moved to D.C. Eventually a Target opened near a metro line in the city– but it was packed to the gills and was still difficult to transport large items by hand. I feel lucky to live in New Orleans, a place with so much personality.  I turn my nose at the ubiquity of hains, but of course don’t mind if they’re confined to the suburbs. I mean, who could object to something like an Old Navy? Y’know, just to pick up a few pairs of shorts at a great price.

*The same friend told me there’s a Hong Kong Market over there… HOLY HELL. See you soon, West Bank.