I’ve always enjoyed pottering / tinkering / embellishing / tarting up objects. Whatever you want to call it, essentially it was my way of making an item last longer, look better or was just to put my individual stamp on it. From cushion covers to plant pots, vest tops to ballet pumps, I’ve stuck or sewn on all manner of bows, flowers and buttons. Perhaps it comes from being brought up by grandparents of the ‘make do and mend’ generation.
Everything had been small scale up to this point, but about a year ago I discovered the trend of Upcycling. No, it’s not the latest version of spin class, where bikes are perpendicular to the floor, but a way of preventing waste. We’ve just had National Recycling Week in the UK, so this is maybe what prompted the fad last June! Whereas recycling uses an object’s raw materials for another reason, upcycling is the art of reworking a used object into something of increased value or purpose.There are some absolutely ingenious ideas out in the world – the imagination of humans never fails to amaze me – these are the inventors of a throw-away society. Check some of them out on upcyclethat.com.
Like with any of my fads, I went all out, buying tools and paints, hoarding various vessels and looking at items from a renewed angle – we totally needed multiple Christmas ornaments made from upcycled lightbulbs… I discovered Annie Sloan chalk paint and began slapping it on everything to give it a new lease of life. This stuff is AMAZING! I’ve tried other chalk paints that haven’t worked well, but Sloan’s really is as good as everyone says. Such a godsend for someone like me who can’t even be bothered to prepare a surface before painting, it will literally stick to anything!
Unfortunately, despite all this enthusiasm, I’ll never pass the initiation test for the Super Club of Upcyclers. With limited DIY skills and an even more limited capacity to stay focussed, I was never going to rework my water bottles into a four-poster bed! But I have upcycled various items of furniture around the house and garden, even managing to make a little money from some 🙂 And if it means they’ve not ended up in a landfill, then I feel I’ve done a tiny bit of good for the world. Plus, it speaks to my inner shabby chic!
This was one of my favourite do-ups, made completely from items destined for the bin. The shallow box was from packaging that previously contained a card holder, the twine from an old gift bag, buttons from a random selection in my sewing box, a few pegs and corks raided from the other half’s home brew stash! Even the flowers were accidentally broken off a plant when watering, so I decided to press them! Give it a lick of paint with Annie Sloan ‘Old Ochre’ and some chalkboard paint and it’s suddenly noteworthy again (sorry!)
My second favourite piece is my ladder shelves. I wanted something a little different for our newly installed bathroom, hoping to preserve a vintage look. Ladder shelves were everywhere in the shops, but were pricey and generally had no character at all. Luckily, S came back from raiding his grandmother’s garage with a set of well used, 50 year old A-frame steps – they were no longer safe for her to use, so claiming them seemed fine! Covered with the aftermath of years of decorating, I didn’t even bother to remove the paint drips – I thought it added to the shabby look. Once painted and waxed (again with Annie Sloan products), I attached some seagrass baskets I had with more twine and my new furniture was born. 🙂
And finally, I’m not sure I can really call it an upcycle as such, due to it requiring new products for the main overhaul, but I went a bit decoupage mad on an old set of Ikea drawers. They were tired and discoloured, so when I spotted this monochrome wallpaper, I couldn’t resist chopping it up and slapping it on to the chest with some paste. It now goes well with the look of our ‘boudoir dressing room’ (that sounds way more pretentious than it is – just a spare bedroom that houses our clothes!).
I intend to add to our collection of upcycled items over the summer holidays – there’s a wicker chair in the garden just screaming to have a lick of paint to drag it out of the seventies – and I encourage everyone to do the same. Embrace your inner hipster and remember one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure 🙂 .
For Annie Sloan products, stockists and inspiration, visit the website anniesloan.com
Image credits: All my own 🙂