Lesbian couple’s Eco 7 Trading Co. in downtown Carrollton ‘upcycles’ used materials into furnishings, art

TRASH TO TREASURE | When not in her store, Eli Brown searches for items that she can repurpose into functional or decorative pieces. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer


Cinco de Eco
Eco 7 Trading Co. will host Cinco de Eco — a night of art, furniture, food and fun — from 7 to 11 p.m. on Saturday, May 5, at 1028 Elm St., Carrollton. For more, visit Eco7TradingCo.com.

CARROLLTON — A ’53 Studebaker hood is now a decorative wall hanging, and a railroad pallet is a coffee table. Eli Brown calls it “upcycling.”

“All you need is a little imagination,” she said.

Brown scours thrift stores, estate sales, the monthly market in Canton — traveling throughout Texas and surrounding states — to find pieces to recycle, reclaim and repurpose.

“Change the purpose or make it something that goes with your style,” she said.

Seven months ago, Brown and her partner opened Eco 7 Trading Co. in Old Downtown Carrollton.

The area itself has been reclaimed — off Beltline Road at I-35, a block from the new Downtown Carrollton DART station.

Eco 7, which occupies a repurposed automotive shop, is filled with furniture Brown reworked in her home garage-workshop, in addition to pieces from local artists.

Brown said her two-car garage is filled with items that haven’t become repurposed works yet. Eventually most of them will.

She described a dresser with the laminate peeling off.

“Underneath is a fine wood,” she said. “Strip it, stain or paint it, and it still serves as a dresser.”

One table in the store, however, began as separate pieces.

The top was a used butcher block. That now stands on a base made from old scaffolding.

And the seats were wooden schoolhouse chairs. Some needed more refinishing than others.

“Anything with wood involves sanding and is very time-consuming,” Brown said.

Metal can be, too. It took 30 hours to remove the grease and grime from a table that was an old machinist’s desk she found in a warehouse in South Dallas.

Adorning the walls at Eco 7 is the work of artists like Kent Steed, who uses found objects to create wall constructions.

Those are intermixed with a photographer’s prints of art deco buildings and signs found throughout the Dallas area.

All the pieces work well with the recycled style of the store.

Brown’s background is in the construction industry.

She said she was horrified by the amount of waste. Absolutely nothing was recycled. Gallons of paint are thrown away if the shade is off, she said.

She left the industry and began repurposing furniture several years ago. She and her partner started selling the pieces in open-air markets such as the one in Canton. Hauling the heavy pieces was a chore.

Her partner is currently traveling back and forth to Canada where she’s helping run a family business.

“Next we were in antique malls,” Brown said.

Their first permanent space was in the Antique Gallery of Lewisville.

She said the spaces were never configured quite right. Either they were wide or deep and narrow, and setting up living room vignettes just never worked.

“It was more cost effective to get our own space,” she said.

After looking in areas including Bishop Arts and Deep Ellum, the couple picked Old Downtown Carrollton.

“There’s just something about Carrollton,” she said. “It’s a tight community and just on the cusp of revitalizing.”

And that fit right into the theme for her store.

The local merchant’s association puts on a number of events including wine walks, chocolate walks, a jazz fest and Santa Fe Days with local American Indian groups, which brings out shoppers.

On May 5, the store is holding its own event, Cinco de Eco.

“Artists will bring in even more of their collections,” Brown said, adding that the store will remain open until 11 p.m.

Several other shops in the area contributed prizes and cash to make the event bigger and will remain open late to participate as well.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 29, 2012.