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Living for repurpose: Aeriel Bruner 

In Aeriel Bruner's world, all unwanted furniture gets a shot at a new home. Whether she finds them in consignment shops throughout the Charlotte area or while cruising Craigslist on sleepless nights, the pieces she repurposes become her own works of art.

Two years ago, when she and her husband moved into the ranch-styled house in south Charlotte, originally built in 1979, they knew they had their work cut out for them. To this day, wiring problems make setting up a TV in certain rooms difficult. "We think we'd get it all finished and then something else would happen," she says. While these challenges have been daunting, Bruner views decorating her home as a welcomed relief.

In the kitchen, a dangling light fixture, accented by two strips of black ribbon, is reminiscent of a hatbox. "I like whimsical," she says. And if one were to ask where to buy something like this? Alas, the answer is simple. Nowhere. Instead, nearly everything in her home has been purchased and refashioned, from mirrors to lamps. Working from home full time as a financial administrator, it's a process that can take up to two weekends per item, but some are ongoing.

For example, missing from the kitchen is a table, her latest project and also her toughest task yet. After applying a primer and six coats of black paint, Bruner says she is frustrated. "I can still see the wood filler!" So, for now, it's waiting in pieces to be completed. She uses nontoxic stains and paints to refinish the furniture, which she buys used. Since becoming a mother 14 months ago, she says she's more aware of environmental issues.

The living room, where she has spent most of her time decorating, is her trophy. "I started with the table," she says. "I wanted it to be a reclaimed wood. I want one of my kids to want to have it someday." The rectangular dining piece is made of solid dark wood and is accented with teal-blue chairs all around. Its length commands attention as a simple cream-colored runner lays down its middle. The "rustic modern" feel is something she admires, but achieving it has taught her a great deal.

"When I started looking for furniture, I learned of the process involved and that sometimes it's not even real wood. [It's] M.D.F.," she says. "Finding affordable furniture that's real hard wood is next to impossible." M.D.F. stands for Medium Density Fiberboard and can be found in furniture at large retail chains like Ikea. Bruner says she would find pieces in stores where "the frames might be real wood but the rest wasn't." So, she turned to repurposing to ensure quality.

A turquoise buffet that sits at the head of the table is a personal victory for Bruner, who painted and sanded the piece. Scattered on and around it are various artificial apples. Like their surroundings, none are traditional.

While Bruner respects the art of design, above all, she respects the environment. "I want to leave [the earth] better than I found it. I want to cause the least amount of harm that I can afford," she says. Even more, she believes in encouraging others to consider their environment. "Get out on the journey of finding things to repurpose. Even if I was incredibly wealthy, I can't imagine myself not doing it this way."

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