How to make amazing upcycling creations… with help from your local charity shop

Look at second-hand buys with new eyes with these great ideas for fun upcycling projects.

Updated

cozy living room with leather sofa and plaid blanket

While remodelling a vintage piece may seem daunting, it can be tackled by anyone, no matter your craft skills. Trawl your local charity shops for suitable second-hand items and let your creativity run free – here is some fun inspiration for your next upcycling project.

Some upcycling ideas are the simplest

You might not even have to alter anything – use your imagination to place objects in new settings, giving them different functions. Ladders, for example, are often put to work as plant stands. Or run a few planks of wood through one and you have yourself a compact shelving unit to be used in a bedroom or bathroom.

An eclectic collection of vintage glasses and vases are great for storing pens and pencils, and look especially good if you spray-paint them all the same colour. Picture frames can be put to all kinds of use: run wires across an empty frame and peg your favourite pictures to it, or fix some chicken wire to the back of the frame and use it as a notice board, a place to hang jewellery or kitchen utensils. If the frame still has its glass attached you can use dry markers to write on it – now you have yourself a cool noticeboard. Top tip: as you search for pieces to upcycle, don’t forget to consider not just whether it would sit nicely in your home, but whether your design intention matches the period of the item. While contrasts can be effective, does a Victorian filigree pattern really work on a mid-century modern sideboard?

How to get started with upcycling

While the objective is to have fun, first you need to spend some time prepping. To prevent yourself being overwhelmed make sure you have all the tools, paints, primers and brushes you need. If upcycling furniture, items may need a good rub down (think about the years’ of dirt that have accumulated). You might need to sandpaper wood or painted surfaces, while wire wool is good on metal. If you’re not particularly crafty, start out with an easy upcycling project where it won’t matter if you go wrong, then get more ambitious as your confidence builds. Suitcases are easy to come by at charity stores and are easily painted. Line with some cool wallpaper in for contrast. Stand sturdy ones upright against a window as plant stands, use sturdy ones as coffee tables or use one as storage for those rarely worn pieces of clothing. You could also try sanding an old drawer and giving it a lick of paint. Stand it upright to use as a bookshelf or nightstand. (Have more than just an old drawer lying around? Explore more ways of making the most of unwanted furniture here.)

As you get more proficient, try your hand at more involved projects. Chairs from a charity shop will often be mismatched but if you renovate them using the same paint colour and upholstery they will play nicely together.

Expand your upcycling world

Of course, you can easily take your upcycling ideas into the garden. Old sinks make great planters, as do colanders and chandeliers. A wind chime can be made from old spoons with the ends snipped off, and a pallet fixed to the wall makes an impressive hanging garden.

Not everything has to be made from junk or vintage stuff: think about reinterpreting those not-so-old pieces. For instance, there is a lot of second-hand Ikea furniture in circulation, which has given rise to its own cottage industry devoted to upcycling. After all, the end result is the same – being resourceful to create a one-of-a-kind conversation piece for your home.

Originally published