The decorator’s guide to dumpster diving

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One man’s trash is another one’s… temporary shanty fully constructed from salvaged materials. At left is artist Lisa Kirk’s Maison des Cartes, a trailer-like structure and former exhibition piece roughly the size of a Winnebago, installed at the Brooklyn Navy Yards. The 52-piece abode, which is available for rent for $199.99 a week, is a “shanty timeshare,” says Kirk, who found the materials in recycled-goods stores, dumpsters, on the street and from construction sites (see below for a guided tour). “I’m kind of obsessed with the milk crate,” she says.

Maison des Cartes, Kirk’s play on the naming of luxury buildings, was inspired by the shanty towns of Puerto Rico and the displacement of immigrants from the tenements of rapidly-developing lower Manhattan.  “I just thought it would be kind of funny to make a shanty in the Lower East Side and sell it to these rich people as like a joke on their luxury branding everything,” she says.

After five weeks this spring as the center-piece of a solo exhibition at a Manhattan art gallery, the shanty was taken apart, moved and re-assembled on its current Brooklyn lot. Now, since late May, it has housed weekly tenants who signed their leases in the gallery/real estate office.

The hardest part of building the shanty was going out and getting the stuff, often with a kid in tow, says Kirk, who has an 11-month-old baby. Building materials include used pieces taken from construction sites that she swapped out for new materials. But it wasn’t stealing, she insists. “We were replacing.”

Has Kirk’s own home-decorating been influenced by her project? No, she was always “a garbage collector,” she says. “The desk I’m sitting at right now is definitely from the trash.” Here, a look at some of the stories behind a few of her finds.

shanty-dining-table

Dining room table: “Those are just barricades that I found on the street. I knew where there were a bunch of them… we just jumped in the truck and went out and grabbed them at night. The benches are actually boat parts — pieces of oak from some boat that was dismantled, and we got those from Build It Green!

shanty-hammock

Hammocks: “They’re from a construction site. It’s that webbing they use to collect the debris that falls off the building. The newspaper floor is actually the AM New York issue that they wrote about me in… It made me sound very stupid, so I used her article as some kind linoleum treatment on the floor.”

shanty-toilet

Bathroom graffiti wall: “It’s like a brick wall piece of Masonite that I assume was probably used on a photo shoot, because it’s not real graffiti at all… It could have come from Build It Green or a dumpster… And that, of course, is a roll of toilet paper.”

shanty-welcome-mat

Welcome Mat: “That’s American Express credit card receipt folders. I found a box of those over in Chinatown… They’re just vinyl and cardboard and then we put some clear plastic tape on them just to seal them down.”

shanty-foliage

Houseplants: “The tree that’s in that picture is growing inside the shanty, like from the street. We just cut a hole out when we put down the foundation, so it would grow in… We decided not to kill it, and it’s doing really well. I guess there’s a greenhouse effect from the skylights.”

For more information on weekly rentals, contact Invisble-Exports Gallery, 14A Orchard St., 212-226-5447.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. “It made me sound very stupid, so I used her article as some kind linoleum treatment on the floor.”

    well, i can’t imagine why the article would do that….

    “Building materials include used pieces taken from construction sites that she swapped out for new materials. But it wasn’t stealing, she insists. “We were replacing.””

    vs.

    “Those are just barricades that I found on the street. I knew where there were a bunch of them… we just jumped in the truck and went out and grabbed them at night.”

    i guess it’s not theft if you take it from the city or a utility, only if you take it from a construction site. also, i’m sure the doh would be ok with this. everything looks up to code.

    this is a little off topic but that bathroom has the biggest glory hole i’ve ever seen.

  2. “Building materials include used pieces taken from construction sites that she swapped out for new materials”

    how is it salvaged or “eco-friendly” if you’re buying brand-new replacement parts at home depot, then exchanging them for old parts at construction sites? doesn’t quite make sense to me.

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