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Bring sustainability back to your home; it’s time once again to recycle, reuse and repurpose, and upcycle your way to a new home look


Upcycling – taking something old and no longer useful, often furniture although it could be material, crockery, toys, or pretty much anything else, and making it beautiful and useful once more, usually by making it into something entirely different (although not always) – was something we, as a nation, used to be great at. 

During World War II, the idea of ‘make do and mend’ was something that everyone was on board with; they had to be, since it was hard to get hold of new things, there was little money, and the war effort took its toll on finances and household objects equally. Fixing things up so they could be used for many years, even generations, to come was a normal part of everyday life. 

Then things changed and the country grew richer. It was easier to buy new and throw away the old and we did so, wanting to show affluent lifestyles and not caring that the landfills were growing. 

But now, with everyone so conscious of the environment and waste and with austerity still nipping at our heels, we seem to have come almost full circle. Now, however, upcycling happens not just out of necessity, but out of a desire to create. It’s the perfect combination of the make do and mend mentality and the creative spirit that is so good for our souls. It gives us a real chance to be mindful and slow down, and with an end result that you can keep and use forever. 

If you’re thinking of starting to upcycle some of your old possessions here are some useful hints and tips about what you can do to make the process fun and the outcome just what you want. Remember, you don’t have to be ‘artistic’ to be an upcycler – you just have to enjoy yourself and remember a few basic rules. 


Choose The Right Project

Although you can go out to the charity shops and the car boot sales to look for items to upcycle, you don’t have to. When you’re first starting out it’s easier and cheaper to look around your own home. There are sure to be old chairs, tables, lamps, glasses, and much more that, if you were honest, you would throw out. Don’t throw them out. Upcycle them instead. 

Pick something that you have the tools and the ideas for. Start small and work your way up to large pieces of furniture when you have more practice and confidence. 

Keep It Simple 

Unless you are already experienced in using tools and planning DIY projects, it’s really best to start simple. Some of the easiest ways to get started are to learn how to:

  • Decoupage
  • Re-paint
  • Stain/varnish
  • Polish
  • Re-cover 

Any of these skills will help you to upcycle all kinds of different pieces and make them look absolutely stunning when they’re done. 

One Person’s Trash…

…is definitely another person’s treasure. Websites such as Etsy offer the home crafter the perfect platform to sell their upcycled goods, and plenty of those who started this wonderful hobby have gone on to make it their business. Why not you? 

Claire from Canterbury based upcycling company Funkage (www.funkage.co.uk) agrees. She says, “I love anything old, vintage, once loved but now not, and being able to turn it into something lovely again. It is my belief, as my nan used to drum into me, often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something new, and that’s how I think of furniture, there can and always will be life in the old dog!

“I love making unwanted things be loved again, so I up-cycle, re-use and re-love… make do and mend! Upcycling can save you money, can be unique and most importantly is good for the environment… never throw anything away!”

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