Window Shopping: ReFINDesign

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Carlos Arango had an idea for a business like nothing in Columbus. Without a model to follow and without any money to use, he turned to Craigslist.

There, he created a post describing his idea: A design collective dedicated to creating things out of what would otherwise be regarded as trash. Arango, once an architecture student at Ohio State, was disgruntled by today's wasteful, throwaway culture.

He urged any creative type or designer who was similarly committed to sustainability, no matter his or her discipline, to contact him, then hit "Publish."

It wasn't too long before Pam Waclawski e-mailed. Waclawski, who has a degree in industrial design, ended up moving from New York to help Arango get his concept - dubbed ReFINDesign - up and running.

"It was very intriguing," she said.

The pair has since been joined by several other like-minded designers, and they all hope Columbus reacts with just as much enthusiasm. The part-workshop, part-retail shop opened for Gallery Hop last weekend.

"We just want to get people in here that like to be creative and find fun ways to reuse stuff that people generally throw away," said Arango, adding that the shop will take anyone's donated salvageables.

Upcycled items - clothing, jewelry and home decor pieces - made by local designers make up the majority of ReFINDesign's retail offerings. For now that includes dresses and cardigans made from recycled fabric, and Arango's clocks, which use just about anything flat as a face. He's always looking for more designers, he added.

Adjacent to the retail space are desks where customers can discuss custom-made projects with designers. They've already designed light fixtures for two neighbors - Milk Bar, and bar and restaurant retailer Mouton.

Workspaces, outfitted with whatever tools members have been able to get their hands on, are in the back. Public memberships will be available for anyone interested in spending a short time working out of the space.

The shop intentionally has a raw vibe. Arango wanted to do as little tinkering with the space - which was most recently a record store several years ago -as possible, repurposing what was already there for his own use.

So sections of vent piping became ceiling lamp shades. Metal strips stick upright in the middle of the shop, forming a "materials tree" to provide inspiration.

"Part of our design process is assessing what's there already and breaking it down into its aesthetic and physical properties," Arango said, "and then determining what it's best suited for, just off the bat."

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1122 N. High St., Short North