Second Soul

Reclaimed materials find new life as tables, chairs and unique home decor at Akron's Hazel Tree Interiors.

If you asked Karen Starr what to do with the empty beer bottles collecting in the back of your garage, she would introduce you to an artist who could turn them into lamps.

The Akron native and interior designer has an eye for reimagining the life expectancy of objects.

"It's my automatic reaction to honor something instead of cast it aside," says Starr, who opened Hazel Tree Interiors in 2010 when she merged her interior design and home furnishings boutique with her husband Jon Haidet's custom picture framing operation. "There are artists and artisans in this area who have never had a place to sell their work, and this place is for them."

Even the three-story studio, housed in the former Norka Futon building, embodies Hazel Tree's eco-friendly approach. A mural by artist Kelly Tighe stretches across the entire side of the 1875 building and depicts an enormous tree against a kaleidoscopic blue sky with roots spelling out "Akron."

Much of what's inside is made from reclaimed materials, by artists who live within an hour of the West Market Street location. End tables created from industrial shelving and a cocktail table made from a factory pushcart are two of the larger items on the first floor, while the smallest is a grenade vase that holds hand-crafted roses made from rusted metal. "It's a showroom of what could be,"
says Starr.

This year, she became a board member for the Preservation Alliance of Greater Akron and helped create the Greater Akron Innovation Network for Sustainability to raise public interest in keeping Akron green and creating sustainable businesses.

"We've got to keep this moving," Starr says. "We're a decade behind major cities but we're getting there. We have to think about what we do in our town, in our neighborhood, for our people and our community."


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