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Ideas & Inspiration

Upcycling: Give Your Old Furniture a New Lease on Life

by DecorMatters|updated Aug 16, 2022

Revamping, salvaging, reclaiming, or repurposing. Whatever it's called, we love it. But for the sake of today's blog, let's stick with calling it simply upcycling. Take a seat, and let us fill you in. Upcycling is a sustainable and affordable way to take old pieces of furniture and give them a new lease on life. With a bit of imagination, you could have your home looking somewhere between the gilded age and mid-century modern in just a few easy steps and a couple of dollar bills – no matter the amount of your creative potential.

📸: @refab_six

Max McMurco, a British designer and veteran upcycler, explains in his book Upcycling, “The key part of the word 'upcycling' is UP – unlike recycling, which takes a material backwards in the chain to its original properties. Upcycling adds value to the item through clever design to make it more desirable, financially, aesthetically, and emotionally.”At DecorMatters, we are big fans of this new craze. So let's run through some of our team's favorite tips to upcycle.

Keep an Eye Out for Solid, Sturdy Wood in Your Hunt

When thrifting in a store or rummaging through grandma's shed for a chest of drawers, or mantlepiece, for example, you want to make sure that it's sturdy and quality.

📸: @easyontheeyes_customfurniture

How do you do that? Check its weight, and move the piece around (or back and forth) to see if any details come apart. Is the wood thick, or when you knock it, does it sound hollow? These can be alarming signs of cheap lumber.Don't feel like you have to buy pieces with real wood, too. You can also pick out pieces that use plywood. Just ensure that it is high-grade plywood like birch or maple. Birch will look amber, whereas maple will look much, much whiter.

Don’t Ignore an Old Piece Because It’s Showing Its Age

Don’t neglect an old piece of wood because it has a few dings. It may be just a diamond in disguise.

📸: @oakeydesignandco

You can clean a dirty piece by following the steps right here. Then, you can fill in holes, scratches, or in some cases, substantial missing chunks by using epoxy wood filler.

Bring Your Imagination to the Party

When upcycling, get in touch with your inner child and bring all the imagination you have to the table! No pun intended. Open up your mind to the possibilities!

📸: @prettypocketprojects

You can use old ladders to display plants, or a washing machine drum can be transformed into a mini herb garden kept in your backyard. Swap legs on one piece of furniture and pop it on another to see if it gives it a new look! The sky is the limit.

Salvaged Wood Can Make Excellent Staple Mark Pieces for Your Home

One very imaginative but effective way to use old crates is to create a hallway or bedside table on your upcycling journey is to place some plants below or stack some books to give it a modern feel.

📸: @vintagefurniturefinds

And if you have some old pieces of wood laying around from previous renovations, follow the same procedure with varnish or paint, but buy some wall brackets from a DIY retailer and use them as shelves! Hang pot plans or, again, stack some books, to add a modern flare.

Liven up a Piece With a Stencil

Yeah, paint is excellent, but have you ever tried a stencil? Using a stencil to liven up a piece of furniture gives it a full-blown makeover. You can even use decals to add a further touch of uniqueness to your work.

📸: @gracies_houseuk

Just ensure you protect the wood underneath with varnish, which we will touch on now!

Always Ensure to Protect With a Top Coat

Maybe you're not too new to the painting world, and that's okay, but here's one thing you MUST keep in mind.After giving it a new life, you need to ensure you love and protect it adequately after the hard work you've put into giving it a new life.

📸: @mylittlemakeovers

All in all, upcycling can be a unique way to refresh your home on a budget, all while being kind to mother earth and saving a couple of bucks. Learn more tips and tricks on how to revamp your home with our DecorMatters app.

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