It’s almost spring! Well, not really…but just the thought of all those yard sales, flea markets and shows like Vintage Market Days has me so excited about all the possibilities of finding some really great furniture or vintage items that can be repurposed or upcycled into beautiful “new” pieces for my home. Recently I shared a post on how you can breathe new life into old things by upcycling, repurposing or refinishing old furniture or vintage junkin’ finds. Today I will be sharing a little more about how easy upcycling is, and why you should try it if you haven’t already! *This post contains affiliate links.
I am always on a mission to help people see all the benefits to buying used or vintage furniture and decor. Not only do you get to try a creative and fun project when you upcycle, but you save money and also help the environment. As a junker, decorator and crafter I love to share my ideas with others and I love to be inspired by them too. Even though the junk decorating and upcycling trend has been popular for several years, I am always surprised at the number of people who have never given it a try out of fear, because they think they “can’t” makeover a piece of furniture because they will “ruin” it.
People who may not go junkin’ regularly but are still interested in upcycling will often want to know what upcyling involves, what items can be upcyled, and where are the best places to find those items. In this post I will be answering those questions and I hope to encourage you to give upcycling a try.
Upcycled Antique Shutters And Corbles Table Source: Country Living Magazine
What does upcycling involve?
When you hear the word “upcycling” you might have images of tearing something old apart and building it back into something new. While upcycling certainly can involve assembling old junky metal items into some type of fun garden sculpture, or taking broken vintage jewelry and making new stunning pieces, upcycling is really much simpler by definition. As you can see from the gorgeous picture above, sometimes upcycling doesn’t require altering a piece at all but instead, using it in a new and creative way, a.k.a. “repurposing.”
Upcycling is when you give an old piece of item of any kind of new life or purpose. It can be as simple as painting a piece of furniture a bright new color. Pieces that have fallen out of fashion are thought of as trash when actually many of them are beautifully crafted and made out of solid wood. They’re from an era before it was fashionable to build everything out of cheap chipboard and veneer! Because wood is so easy to revamp it makes no sense to just throw away a piece because it looks outdated. Sand it down, give it a coat of paint and switch out the handles and you can completely modernize it or make it look even more vintage. Check out this great before and after! (Above and below).
A hot decorating look right now in lieu of painting is cerused or weather oak finishes and furniture that has been stripped down to bare wood and left as is with a simple matte protective top coat. Another beautiful trend is to add a light white wash of paint or a coat of liming wax right over a stained piece of furniture to give it a whole new
vintage appeal. It doesn’t get much simpler than that when it comes to furniture makeovers! I am looking for some pieces when I go on my spring junkin’ adventures to try this technique.
What items make the best upcycling projects?
You can upcycle just about anything! If you want something that’s not going to be overly challenging, start with a piece of old furniture such as a chair. All you will need to do is give it a cleaning or just a cosmetic makeover with paint.
The green cabinet by the fireplace is my latest upcycle. I found it in November at a yard sale for $30. It was an unsightly shade of 1970’s green and very dirty, but the perfect candidate for a cosmetic makeover upcycle. Green is my favorite color, so I decided to paint it a darker shade of green just to try something different from my neutral furniture and I love it! For now that is. I am thinking it might look nice in Robin’s egg blue for spring, and so I just might paint it again! The round coffee table is an old oak dining table that was cut down to make a coffee table. The orangey-yellow oak stain was not for me, so I gave it a weathered gray wash using various shades of gray and neutral chalk paint I already had in my stash and it turned out really nice!
So many furniture pieces in our home room were considered “junk” by the sellers we purchased them from, but have been upcycled with paint to be given a brand “new” look. The large mirrored buffet was in rough shape when I got it. It had peeling and missing veneer and dark stain that was all scratched up. I upcycled it into a chic statement piece by simply painting it a creamy white latex paint, distressing with a hand sander, and adding a walnut stain and then wiping off the excess. It turned out to be a stunner!
The antique theater seats were found at the well-known U.S. Route 60 Yard Sale. My husband cleaned them with Murphy’s Wood Oil Soap and we left them as is. We are preserving history and adding character to our home by incorporating old furniture. In this sense we have repurposed the seats from their original use in a theater to everyday use in our home. You can see more of this room and more upcycled furniture in my Cozy Neutral Winter Home Tour post.
If you look on Pinterest for upcycling ideas you’ll see it’s limitless. Wooden palettes can become coffee tables, old doors can become headboards, or you can even upcycle your kitchen cabinets for a complete transformation. What about a chair that is missing the legs? It can be upcyled into a unique plant shelf!
Where can I find pieces to upcyle?
As I mentioned above, many of my own furnishings and decor are second hand junkin’ finds. You can scour scrap yards, junk shops, antique stores, Etsy, eBay, Craigslist and Facebook groups. People often give away or sell these things cheaply as they can look a little rough or outdated. Don’t be intimidated by dirt, age, and wear. If a piece has “good bones,” it is worth salvaging. If a table or chair has legs that are a little wobbly, don’t let that deter you either. If you must make repairs, be sure to strong glue like these from riteadhesives.com.au to fix any wobble or to attach things like new legs and you’re good to go.
Only take pieces that are free of rot, pests and water damage– if it shows any signs of these three things then pass it up for something else. Furniture made of wood is the easiest to upcycle, but if you’re into textiles you can reupholster things like chairs and sofas if that interests you. You can even chalk paint directly onto fabric which is one of my favorite ways to quickly makeover an upholstered piece. There are plenty of tutorials on Hometalk and Pinterest to show you how.
Of course you can always leave some pieces just as they are in all their chippy-shabby vintage glory if you love cottage and farmhouse style decorating! Using an old ladder to display potted plants is also a form of upcycling. There really is no right or wrong to upcycling. If you can think of a new idea or look for an old item, go for it!
*If you smell a strong musty smell or see visible signs of mold on any piece you are considering, DO NOT try to salvage the piece. Working with moldy pieces can have serious health consequences, even if for a short amount of time. Also, dragging moldy pieces inside can actually introduce mold into your home, releasing mold spores into your environment. No piece is worth developing a lifelong sensitivity to mold or problematic sinus issues from inhaling mold spores on that old dresser you couldn’t live without out. There will always be more junk to be found!
Why upcycle anway?
We all know we should be doing more to reduce our carbon footprint. When you buy new products, you create a demand which leads to more factories being built which use fossil fuels. When you re-use what’s available, you help to curb this demand. Upcycling can also save you money, since an old piece of furniture and some materials will be way less since expensive than buying new. Plus the quality is likely to be better too, as new mass-produced furniture use cheaper materials. On top of this, you get a completely unique piece for your home with history and character.
I hope today’s post has you ready to give upcycling a try if you haven’t already. I am curious if any of my friends and readers have ever upcycled furniture, and if so, what are you favorite projects? I love seeing before and afters and pinning your lovely projects to my various junk related Pinterest boards for inspiration. If you are planning any new upcycling projects or would like advice or suggestions on redoing a piece, feel free to contact me any time. I love hearing from you!