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Kayla Gary, Mona Derouen and Polly Smith are very resourceful ladies who like to transform trash into treasure. (Rita LeBleu / American Press)

Kayla Gary, Mona Derouen and Polly Smith are very resourceful ladies who like to transform trash into treasure. (Rita LeBleu / American Press)

'Re-Re Sisters' give lesson in repurposing

Last Modified: Monday, February 24, 2014 12:15 PM

By Rita LeBleu / American Press

Some readers may have read the book or seen the movie “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.” It’s a story about a few Southern women who stick together through thick and thin and manage to find the humor in most things. Just as entertaining, though not as widely heralded, are the adventures of the Jennings “Re-Re Sisters.”

Mona Derouen, Polly Smith and Kayla Gary are three “characters” who are very supportive of each other and their efforts to locate items at rock bottom prices and turn those finds into repurposed jewels. It’s their mission to rediscover, reinvent, repurpose, revitalize, restore…You get the drift — or rather “the thrift.”

Like the ladies in the book they share a secret. But they’re not likely to tell. (They don’t want the competition honing in on the places where they find their steals.)

However, they were willing to share a few remarks. First of all, they advised repurposing wannabes to “think outside the box.” When Derouen sees an old cabinet door, she snatches it up, sands it down, adds a coat of paint and decorative hooks. “I don’t even have to ask my husband for help with this one,” she said.

“We all have our own tool boxes,” Smith added. According to Gary, a toolbox is a must because sometimes you might want to take something apart to move it, or may want to remove a section, a door, a handle or a knob of something that’s been hauled to the road for trash pickup.

Polly Smith calls herself a picker and a grinner, and launched into her favorite tune “On the Road Again” when introduced. Kayla suggests in a sort of stage whisper that Smith may be a hoarder and Smith feigns a surprised and hurt expression.

She definitely likes finding deals. “I’m the queen,” Smith said. “I’ve got the crown. It’s like once you start paying so little for something, it ruins you. We used to have a dining room. Now it’s a staging area of sorts for repurposing.”

Later Smith’s husband said that he thinks there may have been another bedroom in the house as well. It doesn’t seem to bother him. “That’s because I cook,” she said.

The three ladies are fairly self-sufficient in their efforts. They’ve learned to load heavy items. “Three hernias and a bladder lift later,” Smith said. Derouen said her husband is most motivated to help when she spells out how the job will save money.

Resourcefulness is the name of the game for repurposers. They seldom spend much money. Instead, they find ways to scrounge and use what they have at hand.

Doors, shutters and windows have opened up a whole new world for Gary. She has put chalkboard paint on an old door, propped it against the wall and voila — she has a message center and a vintage anchor point for her room. She’s also turned old shutters into coffee and sofa tables. Windows become photo and collection display centers.

Gary attached a box (similar to an old soda bottle case) to a braced door, affixed a mirror and added a vintage stool. Now it’s a one-of-a-kind vanity.

Currently she’s looking for inspiration about how she can turn an old plantation door that she scored at an estate sale into something clever.

“I really like combining the industrial look with something softer,” Gary said, after showing a metal stool waiting on the worktable to be transformed. “It’s either going to be a stool or an end table; I haven’t decided.”

There’s a bit of the teacher and encourager in Gary. “When I need ideas I like to see new things, to get away from home to see what other people are doing,” she said.

During the interview, she walked back to a storage area and picked up what looks like a part of an old, broken chair. “This is where it starts,” she said. “You look at something that’s been discarded and figure out what you might be able to do with it to breathe new life into it.”

She waited for an answer from the only person in the room who has no toolkit, no van and never haggles.

No answer forthcoming, she shows how it might be used for a towel rack and affixed to the wall.

She fails to mention who can do the laundry or run the carpool while the project is being completed, the chance for overspraying the inexpensive can of paint onto the neighbor’s car or how to repair the wall ruined from a failed attempt to hang the imaginary (at this point) repurposed creation.

Re-grettfully, not every woman has what it takes to be a Re-Re Sister but that just makes their allure all the more fascinating and the projects that much more special.

To borrow a line from the movie, “These women may be nuts, but I have a feeling they might know something....

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