Sustainably furnished: become an upcycling expert with these projects
Living sustainably isn’t just a trend – it’s incredibly important! The dictionary defines the term sustainability in ecology as a principle according to which no more may be consumed than can grow back, regenerate and be made available to use again in the future. This principle can therefore be applied to nearly every aspect of everyday life, such as the resources we consume, our diet or even how we design and furnish our living space. You don’t always have to buy new decorations, furniture or other furnishings every time you want to change things up – if you want to live sustainably, it’s time to take a deep dive into the world of upcycling.
The only limit is your imagination: have you ever considered transforming old drinks bottles into a brand new spice racks? Or how about giving an old piano a new lease of life as a shelving unit? Maybe turning a truss beam into a stylish lamp is more your thing? And who knows what treasures are lying around the house or are hidden away in Grandma’s cellar, which are just a few simple steps away from becoming something totally new. Perhaps even the tractor sitting in Grandad’s shed stopped working long ago and is now just rusting away – wouldn’t it make a wonderful new bar for the garden?
As you’ll have noticed, if you’re the creative type then you can really go to town with upcycling. We want to inspire you to take your upcycling game to the next level, so we’ve prepared some step-by-step instructions for some great upcycling projects for you down below, so you can add more sustainability to your home.
The basics: here are some of the ways you can upcycle something.
First of all, there are different ways to ‘upcycle’ something. There aren’t any specific rules or special methods – even an old brown chest of drawers wouldn’t turn down a new bright pink look (image 1). Whether you repurpose it, sand it down or paint it, how you create something new from the old is entirely dependent on what you’re upcycling and how creative you’re feeling.
When it comes to upcycling, one thing takes precedence: creativity. Upcycling doesn’t necessarily mean building a new chair from an old one. As you can see in the image above, you can turn a chair into a type of shelf (image 2), make a lamp out of colanders (image 3) or transform a tennis racket into a chalkboard (image 4). As we have said, repurposing is actually the most innovative thing you can do when it comes to upcycling… but it does require a little thinking outside the box. Give it a go!
When you upcycle anything made from wood, you should always have a sander, or at least hand sanding paper ready. Of course, you’ll have to estimate how much sanding work has to be done and what grain of sandpaper you’ll need based on what state the object you’ll be working on is in.
You should start by taking a close look at your used wooden furniture: where are there scratches or other scuffs and marks that can easily be repaired with a little sanding? But even if you only want to repaint or re-varnish wood, you should still give all of the surfaces a once over with a fine-grain sandpaper.
A new coat of paint can give old objects an entirely new lease of life. You can of course take the ‘traditional’ approach and just give the wood a new coat of varnish to breathe new life into the original colour.
But sometimes a completely new, perhaps even unusual colour can revitalise a piece of furniture. In the fourth image in the slider, you can see that even a bright pink can be a match made in heaven for an old gramophone cabinet. And the best part is that you can make your newly upcycled object seamlessly match your home and other furnishings. This way, everything will be in perfect harmony.
It’s also worth getting your hands on a paint spray system if you’re going to be painting large pieces of furniture. Check out our detailed guide to find out exactly what you need to know when it comes to spray paint systems.
Upcycling can be anything from incredibly simple to immensely complex. You don’t have to start by upcycling an entire chest of drawers – a small decoration project is just as good a place to start. It goes without saying that there’s no right or wrong here either: cans covered with denim fabric can become a shelf (image 5) or discarded water cans can be turned into bloomin’ brilliant flowerpots (image 6). We have more detailed step-by-step guides for great upcycling decorations for the following projects:
Ceiling lamps made from a wooden beam
Are you not totally satisfied with the lighting in your dining room? Then how about installing a rustic wooden beam similar to the one you can see in the first image above? Once you add a few stylish lightbulbs to it, it will be transformed into a cool ceiling lamp. Just follow a few simple steps and you will soon be able to switch on the light (100% sustainably, of course).
Pinboards made from baking tins
Could your home office do with an update? Easy peasy: you can make your own pinboards from old baking tins and a little bit of cork in just four simple steps. You’ll never have been so quick to tidy up your workspace and do something good for the environment at the same time – trust us!
Wall design with crown corks
When crown corks were invented over 125 years ago, nobody anticipated just how many colours and patterns the metal caps would eventually be available in. And you don’t have to let this variety go to waste: you can use the tiny caps to craft a huge range of different things. Try making a colourful mural like the one in image 3! It’s a fun handicraft idea that is also easy peasy thanks to our step-by-step guide.
Side table made from a wooden slab
Sustainability is mostly natural and the natural look is in: the DIY side table in image 4 might look like an expensive designer piece, but you can make it yourself with a little upcycling effort. Our four-step guide shows you how to transform a simple wood slab into an extravagant side table. The result: a guaranteed head-turner for the living room or bedroom.
Is upcycling no longer an alien concept to you? Then it’s time to test yourself and take on something bigger. Pieces of furniture can also be given a new lease of life or even built from scratch thanks to upcycling. These sorts of projects often only require very simple steps. For example, a large wooden cable reel that can only be transformed into a coffee table by sanding it down (image 5). Some projects, however, need you to take a few more steps. We’ll show you which ones:
A shelving unit made from an old door
Is it possible to transform an old panelled door into a stylish shelving unit? Of course it is! It doesn’t matter whether you have a garden, a patio or a large balcony – our shelving unit in image 1 is the stylish upgrade your outdoor space has been waiting for. When you’re finished, you will have not only built a unique piece of furniture, but also created a new place to store your flowerpots, lanterns and magazines – all while introducing a whole new level of sustainability to your living space, of course.
Upcycling to create a mid-century chest of drawers
Mid-century furniture, that is, furniture from the 1950s and 1960s (like the one you can see in image 2), is trending in many home furnishing magazines. Everyone wants a piece of their own. No need for you to join the hunt though as we’ll show you here how you can easily design your very own throwback piece using a normal chest of drawers. This is a much easier, not to mention cheaper, way of getting your hands on a piece of furniture like this. Maybe you already have one at home?
A rocking chair made from car tyres
Maybe you still have a couple of old car tyres lying around in the cellar rather than a chest of drawers? Let’s do something with them! How about a snazzy rocking chair like the ones in image 3? It’s sustainable and has a unique look. We’ll show you how to build this upcycled chair here.
A stool made from concrete and wooden handles
This upcycling project will knock you off your seat – once you’ve built it, that is. This DIY concrete stool in image 4 brings a touch of style to your living room by simply reusing the handles from old gardening tools such as shovels or rakes. A seat cushion made from fishing nets lends this stool the perfect, rustic-chic touch. We’ll show you how to build your very own stool with fishing net cushion here.
Quick and easy
Sustainability projects for day-to-day life can also be quick and easy. That’s why we’ve put together a few small upcycling projects that work without needing an entire toolbox and a lot of effort:
A soap dispenser made from a smoothie bottle
Are you a fan of smoothies? If you prefer to buy the delicious fruit drink rather than make your own at home, then you’ll be familiar with the stylish little glass bottles that adorn supermarket shelves. With a little creativity and a couple of clever little tricks, you can turn your empties into a great soap dispenser like the one you can see in the first image above. This mini project allows you to add to your ecological footprint by recycling the pump and hose from an ordinary old soap dispenser. The pump can be inserted into the smoothie lid perfectly by drilling a suitably sized hole in it. If you fancy it, you can decorate your new dispenser with a touch of spray paint.
A storage unit made from wooden ladders
The DIY ladder wardrobe in image 2 is another simple upcycling idea that is most definitely faster to assemble and infinitely more customisable than any wardrobe you can buy from a furniture store. All you need are two ladders of equal height, boards to act as shelves and a pole. Click here to find out how to assemble one of your very own.
A table made from magazine holders
Would it have ever crossed your mind that the stylish table in image 3 was built from discarded magazine racks that had been glued together and a stool? It not only gives you somewhere to put down your newspapers, but also somewhere to set down your cup of coffee or laptop. Now that’s what we call clever and sustainable.
Have we managed to inspire you? Great! Then let your imagination run wild and unleash your creativity. As you can see, upcycling is a doddle… and our environment will thank you for every time you do.