Reusing stuff doesn’t have to be boring, you know.
Today, the trend of “upcycling” is well-established in some parts, but some would say it’s an age-old art dating back to whoever first hung a truck tire from a tree and called it a “swing.”
What is upcycling? It’s when you don’t just recycle something, you make it more useful to you, more relevant for your needs.
Whether it’s turning all your old wine corks into coasters for glasses or reinventing furniture for new purposes, upcycling’s about making life longer for objects in our far-too-disposable world. It’s about saving things from landfills but not just repainting them, and instead using your imagination in decorating.
Recently, I wrote about a few great projects one could attempt with thingslike old suitcases, pianos, and even TV consoles.
Here are a few more takes on upcycling.
Bottoms Up — Way Up!
Whether it’s bottles, glasses, or other containers, there’s a whole world of creativity waiting to happen to those glass items you’ve had kicking around for way too long.
With way less technical skill involved, here’s a great way to upcycle your old jam jars and get organized at the same time. I’m imagining it on a smaller scale with small 1/4-cup sized jars and spices. How neat would that look?
Another reasonably doable project for giving a new life to your old Mason jars is this fantastic wall-mounted planter made with the jars. I’d love to see this with herbs growing for a kitchen. The same idea does wonders for beauty products in the bathroom too.
The Perception of Doors
I don’t know if it’s because I read Aldous Huxley after I heard the Doors for the first time, or what, but I just love old doors.
The thing about the old doors is, they’re often solid hardwood. You wanna repurpose them? They can take it.
The classic reinvention of doors is as a table. Seats six, looks great, what more do you need? This is fool-proof once you put some glass over it, as this DIYer attests.
An idea that really blows my mind is using the doors as bedside pieces — attaching gorgeous sconce lamps, and boom, the most original bedside light you ever did see.
But there’s an open door when it comes to reinventing your doors. People use doors for “framing” photographs, as overhead potracks, as the back of a bookshelf, and so much more. Wherever you could use an 80×36″ board, use a door instead. Solid-core doors can even be cut in lengths to make shelves.
Break on through to the door side.
An Upcycling Artist Who Inspires
The sometimes-upcyclist designer Thomas Wold is someone to watch if you’re really looking for inspiration. He turns broken old oddities into amazing cobbled-together pieces that command a lot of money.
Now, other people have tried his idea of stacking tables and old cupboards in an offset manner to create a shelving unit, but I don’t think anyone has had his amazing aesthetic in the reinvention of his pieces. I think this one unit is mind-bogglingly brilliant, and a great way to reuse all those tables that get broken because someone confused the idea “table” with a “chair.”
This is another great idea of Thomas Wold’s world of reinvention — oddball chairs mounted on a base for the upcyclist’s answer to airport seating. Wouldn’t you love waiting in a doctor’s office if it had funky seating like this to pick spots on? I’d be next to the globe, learning obsolete geography.
The thing that yields the best, most versatile projects in upcycling, I find, is the trusty old shipping pallet.
Pallets come in different shapes and sizes, but you can find them made of hardwood sometimes, making them an affordable (usually free/found) way of creating a quality upcycled project.
From dismantling pallets for a rustic panneled wall, to making a winecellar from halved pallets, to framing out a funky children’s bed with all the old skids, there’s no end to the creativity one can apply to things that might otherwise be destined for a woodchipper in the near future.
Personally, I can see myself tricking out a pallet with awesome industrial wheels and staining it nice and dark, just like this one offered by a fancy English company, except mine might run me $75 versus theirs which costs about $375+ US.
Go Forth and Upcycle, Grasshopper
In today’s world, we’re constantly told change means buying something new and throwing out the old. But as the climate changes and the forests vanish, it seems it’s time to change our ways.
Why not invest your money in technology and building projects that conserve energy and heat, and get creative to reinvent those things you don’t really need to replace?
Upcyclists aren’t a special breed. They’re just like you and me, but they see more than just the expected life from objects. After all, a “table” isn’t just the thing you buy at Ikea, it’s really just a flat surface with legs. How you get there is limited only by your imagination.
If our homes truly are a reflection of who we are and how we think, then imagine what upcycling can say about you.