Interview with Kristin Adams, local Upcycler and Interior Redesigner

By Deidra Duncan

Kristin Adams is a local interior redesigner and participant in this year’s Upcycle Challenge at the Philadelphia Home Show.  She recently established her own design company, Pineapple Cottage Designs, and she has limitless ideas and a genuine knack for creativity when it comes to innovative home design.  Kristin was one of 11 local designers to submit a self-made piece of furniture to the Upcycle Challenge, which she repurposed entirely from household items found at the Habitat Philadelphia ReStore, our non-profit storefront that sells donated home goods to the public at discount.  Entrants had the chance to showcase their work in front of over 50,000 Home Show visitors, demonstrate easy-to-do, sustainable decorating techniques, and auction their creations to raise funds for Habitat Philadelphia’s affordable housing work.

Visit our website to see what the Habitat Philadelphia ReStore currently has in stock, find out about upcoming sales, and start imagining how you can upcycle your own ReStore finds!

How long have you been a designer?  What’s your specialty?

I believe I’ve been a designer since the day I was born. When I was young I was always moving furniture around in my room to create different looks. My childhood was relatively unconventional, and encouraged a creative atmosphere.  I guess I’ve always been a designer out of both necessity and extreme love of creating things that I liked. With usually little or no money available, I had to figure out creative ways to bring my ideas to reality. I like to look at something and see what else it can be. I especially love to create functional multipurpose things that can help with both organization as well as look great.

Habitat Philadelphia ReStore Upcycle Challenge DIY contest

Kristin Adams’ entry in the Upcycle Challenge, repurposed entirely from items purchased at the Habitat Philadelphia ReStore.

How did you become involved in the Upcycle Challenge?

It was a very last minute thing. I met a designer at the Home Show last year and that connection led me to participate. She connected me with the event organizer, and ­on January 4th [one week before the show] I was told one designer had dropped out so fortunately there was space for me.

The scope of the UpCycle Challenge was to take a $100 coupon to purchase a door and any other needed supplies from the Habitat ReStore. I have a ‘thing’ for doors, especially if they are unique and old, so I was really excited!  My design idea was already in place before I even began shopping for materials. The chalk paint was something I had never used before, but there really wasn’t enough time to practice or read a book about the application process, so I just decided to ‘wing it’.  With a few long distance phone calls to a friend who’s used it, I figured it out as I went along!  It all worked out fine.

I would definitely participate again. A little more time would have been great, but I think I work better under pressure.  If a deadline is approaching, there is no time to second guess my design choices.

Habitat Philadelphia ReStore Upcycle Challenge DIY contest

Adams’ upcycled design included cabinets, doors and mirrors found at the Habitat Philadelphia ReStore.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to repurpose an item?

Just do it! There are no mistakes and no rules. Try not to put limits on your own thinking. Use colors that you like and design something that looks good in your home. If you like something, just try it—you can always tweak it later.

There are so many ways to improve an item with just a little creative process. For instance:  a fresh coat of paint in a different color, or making 2-sided pillows for easy decorating changes, or new hardware, or even just moving the furniture around in a room to change the traffic flow.  These are things that can enhance the look and style of any home!

Habitat Philadelphia ReStore Upcycle Challenge DIY contest

Adams recombined common household items in creative ways to create a useful, beautiful piece of furniture.

Where can someone go to get design ideas?

The internet is the best source, as there are plenty of websites like Pinterest which have great pictures and upcycle ideas. Designer magazines are also a wonderful resource. Find a picture of something you like and do your own version. There are always ways to do it for so much less if you just open your eyes and think about it ‘out of the box’!

Habitat Philadelphia ReStore Upcycle Challenge DIY contest

Adams included small design modifications that anyone can do, like sanding this wooden door handle to reveal its natural beauty.

To find more information about repurposed home decorating, contact Kristin Adams at Pineapple Cottage Designs, at  You can see more photos of her upcycled furniture on Pineapple Cottage Designs’ Facebook page.  

-Interview by Deidra Duncan, February 6, 2014


About Habitat Philadelphia

Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia is an independently chartered affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI), the largest nonprofit homebuilder worldwide. Locally, Habitat Philadelphia is on a mission to transform lives and our city by building and repairing quality homes in partnership with families in need, and uniting all Philadelphians around the cause of affordable housing. Our Vision is a city where all Philadelphians live in safe, affordable homes.
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