For those of us who have an addiction to thrift stores, it can be exhilarating to find something that was both budget-friendly and unique to your personal style. The problem comes, however, when your different styles clash is a strange modge-podge of colors, patterns, and textures that may not mesh into the dream home that you love. Don’t fret, though. We can start by upcycling your house full of wildly different pieces into a cohesive collection of well-loved and well-matched pieces.
Upcycling can not only be friendly to your budget, but to the planet as well. There are stores dedicated to reselling clothes, art, appliances, furniture. You name it, there’s a place to buy it used somewhere. By buying used, you can save functional pieces of furniture from landfills, helping to reduce the amount of waste taken to our already overflowing landfills! Small shifts in the way that you interact with the world can begin to add up to an incredible amount.
One of my favorite ways to upcycle a piece of furniture is to give it an entirely new life. My best friend works with a lot of historical sites, and when they have to remodel a building to represent a historically accurate state, they end up having a massive amount of debris leftover. She managed to reclaim a modern door with glass panes from being taken to the dump. With a bit of sandpaper, stain, and elbow grease, she upcycled a large picture frame out of this door. She gifted it to her grandmother with pictures of all her family to have her hang in her home. With a little bit of creative thinking — or a bit of creative borrowing online from sites like Pinterest or Craft Gawker — you can create a new piece to love from what you already have.
It’s incredible how a little coat of paint can transform something dated into something modern and fun that suits your style and your home perfectly. I tend to lean toward this when the overall shape of the furniture is unique and quirk, like an antique secretaries desk, but the appearance is drab or even dirty. Give your piece a good cleaning and sand it down before you add the paint. Make sure that you get paint appropriate to your project and get messy! I love using neutral colors and adding a pop of color. By painting the insides of drawers or the back of shelves, bright colors can be just what a piece needs to be transformed from boring to extraordinary.
I can’t tell you how many times I look at a chair and think, “I love that chair, but I hate that fabric!” It becomes so much of a nuisance that for a while, I refused to thrift any furniture that had fabric on it at all. That was until my partner bought me a staple gun and showed me how to reupholster a dining chair. I had such a fun time with the project that I’m already planning on upcycling a headboard for my room. This type of upcycling project can become pricey if you have to get a lot of fabric and padding if the furniture is older, which I think is the biggest downside. A great budget hack if upholstering seems like too daunting a task — you can also buy covers for nearly any kind of chair now and in a variety of styles.
Don’t scoff at this one — wallpaper has come back on trend and has gained a whole slew of more modern and fun designs to choose from. Even better, if you’re afraid of commitment, you can buy temporary or removable wallpaper. Now you can change up your upcycled pieces design quickly and easily. My favorite example of this craft is to wallpaper the front of a chest of drawers, only the drawers themselves. This can add an intricate design to your piece with almost no work on your part. Another great hack if you still are unsure about wallpaper, get a stencil. You can easily create a design and just paint over it if you want a change later.
This is my favorite way to upcycle something but is probably one of the most difficult on this list. If you have no experience in wiring or handling electrical items, you may want to start with small projects before moving to anything too unwieldy or reach out to a professional for help. I love the juxtaposition of the bright and airy light with a dark metal piece, or with painted glass. Each of these two upcycling ideas has its own style and can quickly become the centerpiece to any room.
Summer is the best time to get out and hunt for some great finds, whether it be at a community yard sale or at a thrift store for a great piece of furniture that only needs a little love. If those pieces need new life, upcycle it yourself. There’s nothing out there that can fill you with pride more than to fill your home with pieces that you transformed with your own hands. Now get out there and create something.