‘Upcycling’ is a relatively new word that essentially describes the process of refashioning old/tatty furniture into something desirable and contemporary. Rather than gathering old items simply to harvest material – for instance breaking down a table for reworkable wood – the idea is to keep the basic structure and bring it ‘back to life’. This is where it differs from standard recycling. And this help you to save lots of money.
Upcycling has become very popular over the last few years as when performed well it can give old furniture an entirely new purpose. It is not unknown for upcycled furniture to literally transform scrap items into very desirable (and expensive) homewares!
Why Is Upcycled Furniture So Popular?
One word – character. In a world where mass-produced furniture is cheap and often pretty good quality, the one thing that is often lacking is uniqueness. While nobody wants to return to a world where furniture was once a seriously big-ticket purchase, the fact remains that identikit beds, tables, lamps and so forth do not lend themselves to adding much character to most homes. Upcycled furniture need not be fashioned from antiques – in fact, the idea is to refashion ‘standard’ furniture with considerable care and attention.
Besides character – which is one of the reasons why you’ll often find upcycled furniture in trendy cafes and stores – there is also a certain ‘green’ quality in this process. The movement against the throwaway culture of cheap mass market items is currently rolling ahead at full speed. Cheap furniture can often be damaging to the environment and has an unfortunate habit of ending up in landfills at the end of its functional lifespan. Upcycling goes against this trend by demonstrating that undesirable furniture – often with just a little effort – can be made to last for many more years in a stylish manner.
Some Examples of Upcycled Furniture
It is no coincidence that the vast majority of upcycled furniture tends to be wooden. Old wood is not only in abundance and often very cheap to purchase (chances are you’ll even have some in the shed or garage) but is also quite straightforward to revitalize. If you are able to source old wood the quality tends to frequently be even higher than machine worked contemporary items.
Tables and chairs are perhaps the most commonly found examples of upcycled furniture as they are straightforward to work and tend to have few curved edges. Anyone with a few basic tools, a little patience, and a dose of imagination can upcycle even the tattiest items into something for the showroom. Doors are also a popular example which until quite recently were easily found in most people’s skips! Tiling is perhaps the best example of reworkable ceramics – with the best examples often capable of fetching very high prices indeed.
Truth be told you’ll find all kinds of types of upcycled furniture. A popular trend at the moment is to rework items intended for outdoor use (benches, picnic tables), as well as any kind of old boxes, chests, bookcases and so on.
Interested in Upcycling?
Anyone can get into upcycling furniture and it costs barely anything to get started. Check local information listings and you’re bound to find an assortment of local groups who will share expertise and ideally some basic tools to help newcomers get started. The fact is that basic carpentry isn’t the most difficult skill in the world to learn and anyone can do so providing they are willing to get a little dusty!
When setting out on your first project just remember to take it slowly at first. Little but regular high-quality progress is far more rewarding than going all-out and possibly making mistakes. Make sure you are working in a well-lit, well-ventilated space that you do not mind getting rather messy. Priming will be the first step in almost any upcycling project so make sure you have all the necessary equipment.
Last but not least – maybe try and get other members of the family to join in? Upcycling is incredibly fun, and nothing beats a family project for helping to get through those rainy Sunday afternoons!