Upcycling furniture

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Instead of scrapping a tired piece of furniture, why not get creative and try upcycling it? We take a look at the popular trend and give some tips on how you can give it a go at home.

Whether or not you’re familiar with the term ‘upcycling’, you’ll recognise the process. It’s a way to creatively refashion old, thrifted or discarded items and turn them into something useful or beautiful.

What is Upcycling?

Upcycling is different from recycling, as the original item is still very much part of the end product, whereas in recycling the original product is broken down and made into something different. Often, an upcycled item is better quality than it was beforehand, as it’s repaired or updated.

In the past upcycling was very commonplace – refashioning clothes into something new, unravelling jumpers to re-use yarn, and reupholstering old furniture. It may not have been called upcycling, but when funds were low it was a way to be creative and still keep household items and clothes relevant.

It can be particularly satisfying to upcycle an item that’s currently unusable but has sentimental value, as you’ll give it a new lease of life.

How to Upcycle

If you have a little creative flair and clothes that no longer fit, furniture that’s past it’s best, or even old wine bottles and suitcases, upcycling could be for you.

People who are already crafty will find it easy to take to upcycling, but there are lots of upcycling projects out there that suit the less DIY-savvy out there. If you’re not normally one to make things with your hands, then start small – you may be impressed with what you achieve.

To begin with, why not try upcycling:

  • Jam jars. Instead of recycling old jam jars or mason jars, upcycle them. They are able to withstand high heats, so make perfect candle holders, and look great with a little coloured sand or stones in the bottom. You could also use them as planters for seeds, or vases for seasonal flowers.
  • Vinyl records. You’ll find tutorials out there on how to turn vinyl into clocks, coasters and even wall decorations, but vinyl bowls make a particularly satisfying upcycling project.
  • Tin cans. Just like jam jars, these everyday pieces of rubbish that we’d normally recycle can be upcycled into storage for stationary, kitchenware, plants and flowers. They can also make unique lanterns, if you have a hammer, nails and a little patience.
  • T-shirts. There are thousands of tutorials online made to help you turn your old, unloved t-shirts into flowers, skirts, pillowcases, scarves and necklaces. For something a little different, though, a macramé planter made from an old t-shirt is a great project.
  • Suitcases. Old, sturdy suitcases and travel chests can be easily upcycled into shelving units or coffee tables. If you have a grandchild who likes playing with dolls, though, consider turning an old suitcase into a one-of-a-kind portable dollhouse.

Furniture Upcycling

Once you get into the swing of easy upcycling, you can take it to the next level and start to work on larger pieces, like furniture.

Upcycling furniture is a great way of customising your interior decorations, refreshing family treasures, or decorating your house without spending a fortune. Look for items that could be spruced up with some sanding and a varnish, with new paint, with a little reupholstering or by adding new handles or embellishments.

One of the most popular ways to upcycle furniture is to strip it and repaint it with a distressed look – something that is much easier to do than you might think.

You can source furniture to upcycle at flea markets, car boot sales, in charity shops, or on sites like eBay or Gumtree. You might also find great things to upcycle at antique fairs, but be sure that you’re not going to reduce the value of an antique by painting or reupholstering it!

Here is an infographic of what you could do with a bed!

Bed To Bench
Bed To Bench by Terrys Fabrics.


Have you ever tried upcycling?

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Silversurfers Features Editor

Hello there! I’m Rachel and I’m the Features Editor for Silversurfers. I work behind the scenes to bring interesting, informative and entertaining subject matter to the Silversurfers community. I hope you enjoy the features we have shared with you. Please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts with us, we love to hear from you!

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31st Dec 2015
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Up-cycling has been around longer than some may think. In the 1950's I remember been asked to take an old '78 record to a Brownie meeting, Brown Owl put them into pans of boiling water to soften them then bent them into fluted shapes and when they were cool and hardened again we filled them with potting compost and planted Hyacinth bulbs for Xmas gifts for our Mothers. As a teenager my Grandmother allowed me to use her hand operated Singer sewing machine to make myself some clothes and as I didn't have money to buy new fabric I unpicked some of my Mother's cast-offs and was able to make mini skirts and crop tops for myself. After I grew up I still liked to be thrifty so when the babies napkins had worn thin from repeated washing I sewed them together in two's so that they were still usable. I also used my maxi-dresses when they went out of fashion to make skirts and pinafore dresses for my two little girls. A few years ago I had some black metal paint left after painting my gate so I converted a sewing machine stand into a garden stand for my plant pots. Now retired I am not as energetic as when I was younger but I still like to be thrifty and keep an eye out for up-cycling possibilities!

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