Have an old desk laying around in your shed? Perhaps you have grown tired of the coffee table you’ve had for what seems like forever. Before you decide to throw them away, why not consider upcycling your furniture instead?
Upcycling furniture is a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly way to add a new lease of life to old and out-dated wares, and this guide is going to take you through just why upcycling is all the rage, with some practical tips on how to do it yourself, too!
What is Upcycling?
Upcycling refers to the act of taking something unused and repurposing it so that it no longer needs to be thrown away. Upcycling happens in a lot of settings, from to dresses to a chest of drawers. Fashion and furniture are common areas where waste items are transformed, and often the transformation process can increase the item’s value.
Upcycling and recycling are often confused with each other; recycling takes an object and reduces it into raw materials that can then later be used to make other items for different purposes. For example, your recycled plastic waste can go onto being made into shoes, whereas upcycling uses the item as a whole – the function of the upcycled item usually remains the same.
In a nutshell, upcycling can be done from home, whilst recycling needs to be done at a facility with specialist machinery.
The Most Popular Upcycled Furniture on Instagram
There are currently 2.1 million posts on instagram which include the hashtag ‘upcycling’.
What are the most popular things people are posting when it comes to upcycling furniture in particular?
Things are definitely looking up for upcycling – compared to 2019, there have been 88% more searches for things related to upcycling this year.
Most Searched Upcycled Furniture
When it comes to upcycling furniture, what are the most popular furniture items that people are searching for?
Three Reasons to Upcycle Furniture
What makes the case for upcycling furniture so strong, and why should you consider looking into it? Here are three key reasons:
1. Upcycling helps the environment
We can look at the environmental argument from two viewpoints: production and disposal.
When you buy new furniture, you are creating demand for it to be produced, which will involve sourcing the material e.g. chopping down trees for wood which could be used to produce furniture, and then manufacturing it to shops through a vehicle which produces air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions that are harmful to the planet. The supply chain of new furniture is therefore less sustainable due to the amount of energy it consumes to create and get them to your door.
When you opt to buy old furniture, say, from a secondhand shop or a car boot sale, you are doing your bit to stop that production process.
Obviously, all furniture will eventually reach a point where it has past the ability to be saved. But getting rid of your furniture when there is a real chance you can transform it into something even better means that you are contributing to the mounting problem of waste. Waste materials like paint and metal can damage the environment during the waste disposal process, and throwing out wares that you can upcycle simply adds to that.
2. Upcycling is more cost-effective
The cost of production also goes into the price tag of that brand new dining table you have your eye on. Upcycling cuts through that so you can end up with stunning homeware for a fraction of the cost! If you are redecorating your home on a budget, upcycling is the way to go.
3. Upcycle furniture tells a story
The rustic charm of older pieces of furniture can be hard to replicate. Upcycling is a perfect way to preserve those aesthetics – the worn-in effect they have can make your interiors feel more homely and a well-loved piece of upcycled furniture is a great way to add a statement to a room.
Whether it’s a vintage chest of drawers that has had a paint refresh, or an old TV unit that has had its drawer knobs replaced, upcycled furniture can add character to your room, whilst injecting life into your decor without breaking the bank or causing much harm to the environment.
How to Upcycle Furniture
Hoping to start your upcycling journey but don’t know how to go about it? Read our top tips for starting your very furniture upcycling project below:
Where can I find furniture to upcycle?
Online, you can find old furniture that is ideal for upcycling in places like eBay, Facebook marketplace or Gumtree. You can often find a great deal locally which will help you keep your carbon footprint to a minimum, all whilst picking up an antique wardrobe that you can work your upcycling magic on.
You can also check out your local charity shops, second-hand markets, or search for car boot sales in your area.
Which paint should I use?
This all depends on the look you are going for as matte, glossy, silk and chalk paints all impart a different aesthetic.
Matte – A matte paint finish is ideal if you are going for a luxury feel in your decor – look out for eggshell paints to achieve this.
Glossy – A high sheen finish that is ideal if you’d like your surfaces looking shiny.
Silk – This paint imparts a semi-matte finish for when you’d like a subtle hint of sheen.
How to Prepare Your Furniture for Painting
If you have finally found a piece of furniture to upcycle, be sure that you are doing it justice with these simple tips to get your paint work on point.
What you will need:
- Tape to protect parts you don’t want to paint
- Grit paper
- Priming paint
- Paint in a colour of your choice
- Top coat paint to seal
- Lint-free cloth
- Paintbrush or foam roller
Step one: PREP
Prepare the surface you are about to paint by taping any areas that you don’t want to paint to protect the furniture. Get your lint-free cloth and some mild soap to wipe down the surface of any dirt and dust. Then get some grit paper and lightly sand the surface to get rid of any pre-existing gloss. Ideally, you will want to have a blank canvas to work with, so dirt and irregularities should be removed before priming and painting.
Step two: PRIME
Now that the surface is clean and you have concealed parts that you do not wish to paint, it’s time to prime! This allows the paint to go on smoothly and evenly and helps it to adhere to the surface, too. Grab a brush and go over the surface with a coat of primer. Once your coats of primer have fully dried, give the surface another light sand with the grit paper.
Step three: PAINT
Using your paint brush or foam roller, apply each coat one at a time. Ensure you run the grit paper over the surface gently after each coat of paint has dried. Typically it could take two to three coats for an even finish, but paint according to your own judgement if in doubt.
Step four: SEAL
So that your hard work doesn’t go to waste, you can increase the longevity of your paint work with some sealing wax. Wait at least 24 hours to seal your paint, then use a little bit of the wax to lightly cover the surface – a little goes a long way.
Three Easy Upcycling Projects
You don’t have to be an expert in DIY or decorating to be able to upcycle furniture. Whether you are a complete newbie or just want to add a simple yet stylish touch to your interiors, check out these upcycling projects you can do with everyday items!
1. Crate Shelves
Need storage? Save yourself a trip to IKEA – use left over wooden crates to create rustic floating shelves. Simply paint over the wood in your desired colour and secure them into your wall for a creative storage solution that helps you to minimise waste.
2. Teapot Vases
If you have found an old teapot, give it a new lease of life and make your plants at home inside one.
3. DIY Fairy Lights
Want some unique lighting? Create ambience in your garden or patio area with an old glass mason jar. Simply feed your lighting into the hole at the top of the jar and suspend from a wire line for an inviting glow – perfect for summer evenings.
We hope our guide on upcycling has given you the inspiration you need to rummage through your nearest charity shop and get creative. Upcycling needn’t cost the Earth and sprucing up your home needn’t be expensive, too.
If you happen to find a cupboard or a chest of drawers that needs quick and easy refresh, why not browse our door knobs and find a cupboard knob to give them some life? With hundreds of colours and styles for you to choose from, there’s something to suit every taste at Knobbles and Bobbles.
- How to Shabby Chic Furniture: The DIY Guide
- The Beginners Guide to Kitchen Renovation