When you think about recycling, what comes to mind? There’s the kind of recycling you do with the endless plastic you bring into your home, of course - beneficial for the environment and humanity as a whole. Then there is the more intricate kind of recycling: where you take an item that you already have and find a new purpose for it. Perhaps you do a little upcycling to improve the use of it or give it a fresh new spin, but the basic idea is the same: you give something a new lease of life.
The foremost, primary, form of recycling is important - but it’s not the most fun. Few people are going to enthuse about the new composting methods they have thought of, for example. Not that there are that many composting methods anyway - chuck it in a receptacle and wait a year for nature to do its magic!
But the second kind of recycling? Now that can be fun. Half of the internet seems to be built around the idea of finding an item with one purpose and giving it many more uses. You can use bread tags to seal chips bags halfway through eating, for example - life hacks, repurposing.
If you are a decor fanatic, there’s no doubt you have stumbled across ideas like this yourself. The idea of taking a common garden pallet and turning it into a piece of furniture appeals to the frontierswoman in us all. Then there are switches, such as the plant pot that becomes a makeup brush holder, the railway sleepers that become a garden bench or the couch that is transformed into a bed.
Why Is This Popular?
Primarily, because it’s more affordable.
It’s a lot less expensive to take the guts of an existing item you already own - especially large items of furniture - and spend an afternoon turning it into something new than it is to buy upfront.
It’s always a way to learn and develop skills. If you can find skills that improve the look of your home and save your money then, well, those are skills that you’re going to treasure for the rest of your life.
Finally, it’s unique. When something is “on trend” in home decor, that means a thousand and one households across the land are going to be stuffed with the same things. If you have created your own pieces, using your own skill and imagination, then you have something that is truly unique.
Do You Have The Skills Required?
The problem with recycling and repurposing items in your home is that they tend to require a degree of skill. You’re going to need to know your way around basic geometry, even if you’re following a precise online tutorial.
For bigger projects, you’re also going to need to be willing to get to grips with power tools such as drills and saws. This can mean a significant investment of both time and finances. However, you will be able to use these items again and again for any project that takes your fancy.
How Does It Work In Principle?
The best methods of recycling like this tend to involve a mix of the old and the new. Rather than trying to make a recycled item the star of the show, it will blend in better with the rest of your decor if it’s accompanied by something more contemporary and modern.
For example, in the bedroom: it’s not a bad idea to make your own bed base. Railway sleepers (once treated and cleaned appropriately) are heavy hunks of wood that will serve you well. You could even try your hand at carving your own headboard once you feel your skills have gotten to that point. To finish it off, invest in a new set of bed linen, the best mattress for the money you have available, and a fresh set of pillows and cushions. By matching the old with the new, it ties the entire look together - and you have something that truly stands out.
The same applies for any item of indoor furniture. Sticking with sleepers, you could create your own dining table but then add in modern chairs and place settings to go with it. A re-sanded and stained old cabinet can be a bathroom vanity, but make sure you add a contemporary sink and tap. Or if you have repainted an old chest of drawers into a fresh style and repositioned them in the hallway, then accessorize them with candles or photo frames.
If you fail to do this, then your house will begin to take on a rustic look. That’s fine if it’s what you’re going for, but it can be overwhelming. Also keep in mind that even well-painted wood has a tendency to flake over time, so you’ll have to plan for a future date when it needs a recoat.
What Should You Be Careful Of?
The biggest problem with reusing old furniture and recycling it for another purpose is that it may not be the best of quality to begin with.
Therefore, before you can get into the exciting part of turning it into something new, you have to dedicate some time and effort into bringing it up to scratch.
If you’re using foundation materials such as sleepers or pallets, then you have to be careful. These items were never produced with indoor use in mind, so you have to be wary of splinters. Ensure when you buy them to show they have been heat treated, too. You will have to spend a lot of time sanding them down, fitting holes, and removing any nails or screws that have been inserted into them. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth it: just be aware of the necessity.
The same applies to anything you are using in your home. Preparation work is a big part of getting the finished product the way you want it, so if you’re impatient, then keep this in mind before undertaking a big project.
Have you recycled/upcycled something you love? I'd love to hear about it!
Lot's of love
, by M. Akamatra