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Feb 15

How to upcycle dull items into fabulous homewares

Jasmine Birtles 15th Feb 2016 No Comments

Upcycle your junk to make useful and attractive items for your home and be environmentally friendly at the same time.

Old clothes, jam jars, wellington boots, plant pots and colourful card are just some of the things that can be turned into ornaments and gifts with a bit of creativity.

Here are some ideas to follow. Give us yours in the comments below.


Upcycle with paint

Painted wood

  • Like the item of furniture but not the colour? Give it a paint job. It will give it new life and create a great focal item. Use hard-wearing eggshell paint to minimise damage and outdoor paints and varnishes for garden items.
  • Anthea Turner says: ‘Baked bean tins are brilliant for storage in sheds, garages or work rooms, just take the wrapper off and spray paint them any colour you want, it’s a novel way to store stationery and any bits and bobs you have floating around. Jam jars are also fabulous and can store a million and one things such as drawing pins, buttons and clothes pegs.”
  • Paint flower pots bright colours, plant them and put them around the patio or garden to make a bright display.
  • Paint lamp bases a different colour to complement the room’s décor.
  • Upcycle the base and/or lampshade by glueing tissue paper, cut out pictures from magazines or old book or music pages over the surface using PVA glue.
  • Revamp old lampshades or personalise new ones by adding embellishments such as buttons, ribbons, lace or die cut images. Use a glue suitable for the surface (fabric or paper).
  • Suzie Candlin from Cricut says “Use old wellingtons, teapots, vases, saucepans and china jugs as garden planters. They can be labelled or personalised with die cut vinyl wording or images. Words and images can easily and quickly be cut using an electronic die cutting machine such as the new Cricut Explore.”
  • Clean, used tins can be decorated with wallpaper samples, old books/magazines, solvent pens/ink and used as storage pots around the home; great for kitchen utensils and pens.
  • Rejuvenate old picture frames using paint or gold spray or by covering them with tissue paper, old book/music pages or magazines/comics. Create new artwork to fill them from wallpaper samples, old book pages and embellishments. Group the frames in clusters on the wall for a big impact.


Re-love old clothes

Denim recycle sign

  • Old jumpers, cardigans and shirts can be upcycled into great cushion covers. Cut off the arms and stitch the holes closed; fill with a cushion filler and create a fastening such as ribbon or wool loops and buttons in the bottom. Shirts and cardigans already have openings so they can be completely sewn up. 
Washing a woollen garment will thicken the fibres to make a cosier cushion.
  • Cut pieces from nostalgic garments and stitch them together to make a patchwork throw/tablecloth full of memories.
  • Cut off buttons, buckles, ribbons and zips from any clothing you really throw away and store them in jars/boxes for later use.
  • Cut off the legs of jeans and trousers to make them into shorts. Sew up the legs of shorts and add a long strap to turn them into shoulder bags.
  • Cut up interesting but unwanted t-shirts into wide strips and sew together to make a cool scarf.
  • Check out the clever ideas that are posted every day on Pinterest for upcycling your clothes. Start with our Pinterest page here 

“People spend a significant proportion of time searching for and retrieving misplaced items within the home – time spent searching is time that could be spent on other tasks.” Darryl Brunt, UK Sales & Marketing Director at Fellowes UK


Upcycle by turning upside down

Up-cycled pallet bedside table

  • Think about items in a different setting, colour and orientation. Look beyond the surface and think beyond their normal use. Turn items upside-down and on their side to investigate different looks.
  • For example, a wooden CD tower with the plastic runners removed could be a deep hollow shelf for jars, bottles, shoes or even a planter for the garden.
  • Use old pallets or floorboards to make crates, taking care to sand the surface to avoid splinters. These are great tables and will stand anywhere. Use outdoor paint or wood preserve if it’s going outside. For indoor use, it can be painted, varnished, waxed or left ‘au naturel’.
  • If you have old, nicely-carved, large furniture, forget about selling it (it’s almost impossible to shift these now), instead sand them down and paint them a light colour, picking out the carvings with a toning colour or gold/silver. Change the handles to update it even further.

Find out how to get involved in National Clear Your Clutter Day 2018

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