DIY salvaged door trash can screen

Ever have something in your home that just wasn’t right, but it felt wrong to get rid of? Maybe it had sentimental value, or maybe it was a gift, or maybe it was a special DIY that it felt wrong to let go of? We had such a thing, and you might have seen it before: thissortaold life salvaged door coffee table We shared this project a little more than two years ago, and it was the first one of ours that got some attention. In fact, it ended up in Cottages & Bungalows magazine: This (sorta) Old Life: cottages and bungalows feature

We were pretty thrilled to have our project published, and this post remains one that brings a lot of visitors to the blog, but for quite a while we’ve felt a little funny about the whole thing because we never did use it as a coffee table (which we talked about in this post.)


The angle on this shot captures the too-tallness of the table in relation to the couch. (And oh my gosh, our living room sure looks different today!)

Still, the table felt like something we had to keep, especially after it got all that attention. We used it as a storage/seating bench, which worked kinda OK for quite a while.

ella reading on door table Last Christmas, though, we just didn’t have a place for it when we re-arranged the living room to make space for our tree, so the table/bench went out on our deck for the season. After the holidays, we changed the living room arrangement  (because I could no longer tolerate the TV being part of our gallery wall) and there was no longer any kind of place for it, especially when it wasn’t serving a necessary function.

We finally admitted to each other that it just wasn’t working for us, and not just because we didn’t need it.

Here’s the thing:  We think it’s great to repurpose things. We love to see people take old things and make them new. Good for the planet, good for our wallets, good for our creativity, good all around. But when repurposing is more about a stylistic choice than a functional one, it stops feeling so good to us. And, when repurposing becomes just another trendy way to manufacture/sell new stuff, it feels downright bad.


This “barn door” table available from a mass-market retailer has details that “lend authenticity” to its “rustic appeal.”

We don’t want things in our home that borrow authenticity. We want to own authenticity. We knew that we didn’t with this coffee table that never functioned as a table, and we didn’t like the idea that maybe we’d been hanging onto it primarily because we didn’t want to look/feel like phonies. (Which would, of course, make us phony. Gah!)

So, we  left it out on the deck for the whole winter. That didn’t seem right either, though. Maybe it wasn’t an authentic piece as a table, but our experience of creating it and sharing it was a good and real one. It didn’t feel right to leave the embodiment of that experience out in the rain. As winter turned to spring, we just didn’t know what to do with it, until Cane came up with a way of re-purposing it again:

trashcan screen

How we got from table to planter screen

All last summer we batted around ideas for ways to screen the trash/recycling cans that must be stored on the side of our house.


Of course I do not have a good before photo from the street view to share! Best I could find is this very old pre-exterior paint job shot of the front of the house, with one lone garbage bin poking out from the side. But there are 3 large bins (recycle, garbage, and yard debris) and they have been an eyesore.

Lest you think this seems like a small problem, I offer you this view of what’s hanging out on the side of our house today:


Definitely ugly! When we first started talking about this problem, I wanted to hide it with something like this:



I was picturing a trellis in one of those galvanized tubs, but when we priced out the materials (not to mention the plants), it was going to cost way more than we wanted to spend.

At the end of last summer, Cane built a simple screen with cedar boards (the kind he used for his Adirondack chairs), but it wasn’t heavy enough to stay upright during last winter’s windy storms. We knew we needed something with more weight to it–which had me lobbying again for a planter on wheels–but then Cane had a vision:

Cane’s visions are often fueled by coffee.

So, he dissassembled the door table and sorted through some scrap wood…


…and worked his Cane magic to end up with this:

trash screen collage

Here’s a quick breakdown on the how-to:

First, he built a large frame and added a board across the middle of it to provide support and a place to nail in the door and the vertical boards.

screen frame

Next, the frame needed to be added to a base. As you can see in this shot, the legs of the base extend back quite a ways, to provide more stability to the structure:


The frame is nailed right to the legs of the base, which you’ll be able to see better in the next picture.

To make the base even more stable, there’s an additional board attached on the side next to the house:


Along the side that faces the neighbor’s house, Cane built a screen with simple slats. The frame for the side screen is attached to the original frame and the base:



On the front of the structure, Cane nailed vertical slats. (Some of these came from the base of the coffee table, as well as the first screen that wasn’t sturdy enough.) Originally, he thought he’d cut these to create a straight line across the top of the screen, but we decided we liked the jagged line.


As a final functional step that provides a nice aesthetic bonus, Cane built a simple box planter, using one of the side pieces of the original coffee table. He gave it simple post legs and attached the box to the screen, which adds weight to keep the screen in place.


I’d like to tell you more about how he built the box, but this is about all I could get from him:

“I just built a basic box out of scrap cedar boards and some 2×2 and smanged it all together and attachified the door piece to the front of it.”  (If you’ve got specific questions, I’m sure he’ll be happy to answer them.)

That cool little metal thingy on the front of the box is something he and Ella found on a walk a few years back. Kinda loving how it looks against the cracked paint of the old door.


After building the screen, we moved the two small planters (which Cane built last year) to this space. We thought it looked more balanced. He also added the hook for the hanging basket because both the hook and the basket were cluttering up the garage.


While that box and the base add weight that makes the screen difficult to move, we like that it can be moved if we want it to be. Nothing is attached to the house, making this a feature we can remove relatively easily if we change our minds about it (or want to put a vehicle into this space).

Because the whole thing was built from scrap pieces, the project didn’t cost us anything (except for a few plants for the boxes). It’s a little kooky-looking, but we like it. And it’s sure a whole lot better-looking than from the street than our trash bins were.


Even better, it makes us happy to see that old door being put to (another) better use. We thought about giving the table away, but now we get to keep it, just in different form. Every time we pull into the driveway, we’ve got a nice reminder of some good memories and valuable lessons.


So, the moral of our little story is this:

Our things are not sacred. If they aren’t serving us, it’s OK to to change them or release them. Don’t be afraid to re-think and re-imagine.


Your turn!

Would love to hear about your things you can’t say good-bye to–and why. Or how you’ve repurposed something special. Or just what you think about our trashcan screen/re-purposing/form vs. function. We love chatting with you.


In case you were wondering, yes, the pictures in this post were taken on two different days, several weeks apart. But the driveway was wet from rain both days. Western Oregon. June. That’s just how it goes in these parts.