What exactly is upcycling? Look it up in a dictionary and this is what you’ll find: the activity of making new furniture, objects, etc. out of old or used things or waste material. It’s all about finding new beauty in unwanted objects and giving them a new lease of life – all without costing the earth, both in the environmental and financial sense.
We’ve gathered together some simple ideas that are a great way to start upcyling. You don’t need to be an expert in DIY – these are easy ideas to try in your home this weekend.
A great place to start is an old chair and a can of chalk paint
Unwanted chairs are easy to find in charity shops, antique shops and even street corners. Old dark-brown-coloured wooden furniture is very unfashionable and, right now, it’s possible to buy it incredibly cheaply. Choose a simple wooden chair in a timeless style. You probably won’t like the current finish – maybe it's covered in dark orange varnish or chipped brown wood-stain – but it has potential.
Chalk paint is your new best friend. In the past, painting furniture meant hours of sanding off varnish and then applying coat after coat of special primers. Chalk paint is incredibly easy to use and requires little to no preparation – you basically just paint over what’s already there.
Start by cleaning your furniture with a soft cloth, or soap and water if it’s very dirty. Chalk paint is good, but you still need a clean surface. Apply according to the manufacturer’s instructions – which usually means one or two coats of paint, followed by a layer of soft wax to seal it at the end.
There are lots of different finishes to try – including distressed looks – but the most contemporary way to try chalk paint is a dip-dye effect. Paint only the legs of a table and chairs for a striking look which appears far more expensive than it really is!
Make use of old packing crates
Wooden packing crates are incredibly versatile. They’re usually made from soft, pale wood – which has a wonderful Scandinavian vibe that looks at home in any interior. Try stacking them up to make a simple and informal storage area in your living room. Or turn an upturned box into a makeshift coffee table. To make a perfect toy box for a child’s bedroom, add wheel-along casters – making sure you sand down any rough edges first.
We think the simple wooden finish of fruit or wine crates look amazing as they are, but you can add a coat of chalk paint for a different look!
Use a wooden palette to create your own bespoke furniture
Had something delivered on a big palette? Put it to use by cutting it down and turning it into something new. With a little hard work you can have something which looks amazing and far greater than the sum of its parts.
We’ve seen some amazing ideas for turning palettes into beds, coffee tables and even ourdoor herb planters. Our favourite has to be this amazing set of desk shelves – perfect for a home office, kitchen or teenager’s room.
Search online for video tutorials and prepare to get creative!
Perk up your plant pots
For an easy upcycling project, spruce up your old plant pots. Search your garden, or the local charity shop, for old planters – then give them a makeover. The best paint to choose is acrylic as it won’t soak into the porous material of ceramic pots. If you want to keep your pots outside then it’s sensible to use a coat of varnish too.
Paint your pots white for a chic, contemporary look and add fun black accents if you’re feeling really creative!