The Revolutionary Yardscape: Ideas for Repurposing Local Materials to Create Containers, Pathways, Lighting, and More

The notion of repurposing materials is not new. Ancient invaders often built their new temples, monuments, and communities from the ruins of the conquered. The remains of Roman settlements in Turkey, for instance, show the carved writings of earlier Greek craftsmen on stone building blocks. Such repurposing was merely convenient and practical. Today, with an overwhelming volume of stuff tossed away by those in our disposable society, repurposing has become a critical need, in order to avoid the sinking of our civilization under a mountain of refuse.

Matthew Levesque comes to the subject of repurposing with a long background of fiddling with things that have outlived their intended use. Working with modest means, he and his wife have always remodeled their homes with previously used materials. Now program director and “master of recycled art” at San Francisco’s nonprofit Building REsources (a salvage yard for still useful items), he helps designers, builders, and homeowners create functional garden art from salvaged materials. In this, his first book on the subject, Levesque shares the evolution of his own home garden, using everything from old plumbing and electrical supplies to building blocks and metal scrap.

Levesque goes further than merely showing the finished products installed in his tiny garden. He identifies the sources of his repurposed materials and their original uses, explains the tools needed to work with them, outlines the process for assembly, and cautions on issues of safety. His ideas are brilliant and original, and he presents them in a manner that even the novice home do-it-yourselfer will understand..

Levesque’s enthusiasm for curbing the flow of refuse to our landfills, by finding new purposes for unwanted items in the home and garden, is infectious. I used to dream about living within walking distance of a really great retail nursery. Now, inspired by his book, I dream of having equal access to a really good salvage yard. I suspect you will too after reading The Revolutionary Yardscape.

Richard G Turner Jr, editor