Homeowner recycles, reuses to restore old mansion

August 6, 2010 (EVANSTON, Ill.) A Chicago area woman is keeping her commitment to live green by rejecting the new and favoring the old. She says using existing fixtures and household decor keeps construction materials out of landfills -- and if polished up a bit-- they can be just as beautiful as shiny, new pieces.

"I like to tell people that preservation is the first green movement," said Janet Kohl, owner of the restored house.

The grand Evanston mansion was built in 1914 and has seen its share of ups and downs.

"From the 40s until I bought the house 12 years ago in 1998, nothing had been done to the house. So, it went into a complete disrepair, and it was deemed uninhabitable," Kohl said.

Instead of gutting the home and filling it with modern conveniences, Kohl has been restoring it to its original grandeur.

"All of the existing sconces, light fixtures, switch plate covers on the lights, window and door hardware was all either replated or repolished and reused," Kohl said. "We also restored the original butler bell system, which are like little doorbell looking things on the door frames that you could push and it rings like a doorbell."

"All of the plaster was restored, and all of the woodwork was restripped and refinished or repainted," Kohl said.

Her remodeling theme was reuse, recycle and restore.

"By restoring and preserving a house, we're not throwing construction materials into a landfill. Construction debris is actually the number one material that's in a landfill," said Kohl.

Kohl worked with local designers to also carry the theme in the furniture and artwork.

"This piece was actually made with reclaimed construction materials, including this piece of white trim that actually came out of the kitchen," she said, referring to a piece of furniture.

Kohl has opened her home to visitors to give ideas about preserving homes and designing sustainably. She hopes her efforts will inspire others.

"Even if you can't afford solar panels, or you don't want to put in bamboo flooring, you can do small things like preserving, salvaging, restoring, keeping things instead of throwing them into a dumpster," the homeowners said.

Janet Kohl's homes have received historic landmark status. She says she plans to write a book about her rehabbing experience because it helped her see similarities between restoring her home and restoring her spirit.

For more details, log on to www.restorationofspirit.com.

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