Up-cycling: One man’s trash is another man’s gold

I find nothing more satisfying that restoring an item that’s on its way to the skip or seeing the potential in making a tired chair look like it’s had the best beauty sleep ever.

But where did it all start?

Nearly three years ago, my first full time job after uni took me up to the highlands, 50 miles away from my home town. Itching to fly the nest, I found a one bedroom bungalow for rent in the town to where I worked.

Images of the sitting cosy in the perfect home on a cold night with a cup of tea and feet stretched out upon a footstool seemed like the dream. A cash register “CHING” chimed in my ears as I grabbed the credit card to furnish my new home.

Soon I was £1,000 down and I still had no footstool to complete my living room. Do you know how expensive footstools are? They’re not cheap, I was looking at forking out at least £150.

Soaring out of my budget, it seemed my footstool dreams had come to a standstill until a convenient light bulb moment occurred “why don’t I find an old haggered footstool and recover it” and there we had it, my up-cycling gene was born.

Since then I have gone on an up-cycling rampage restoring anything I can get my hands on. I’ve learned a lot of lessons, and here’s some words of wisdom to any budding up-cycler. I would give you all my tips but I don’t want you being better than me …

Locating your item

My first instinct was to search Gumtree for the illusive footstool and after a few searches, I managed to pin one down for a £30, a total steal.

Gumtree will soon become your best friend when looking for items to up-cycle – the site is full of un-wanted items with huge make-over potential for low cost too.

**POINTER** As well as doing a general search for what you’re looking for, make sure to also filter your search to a specific category to make sure you get a full catalogue of what’s out there.

Free-cycle is another great site for finding your next up-cycle. Like Gumtree, this is a posting site but everything listed is free. Sign yourself up to weekly email updates that share all that has been listed on the site.

Get the right tools

As much as I like to wing it, conquering your first up-cycle is near impossible without the right tools – attempting to wedge up pins with a ruler is not a fun task … not that I did that or anything …

You don’t need to break the bank to kit yourself out, all you need is to get onto Amazon, purchase a staple gun, staple remover, tack lifter, hammer and pinking shears to get you started.

Get those cogs turning

Always known to have an imagination to give J.K a run for her money, the cogs in my brain never stop churning out ideas, but even my creativity levels can hit rock bottom at times.

Pinterest is one of the best social media creations to date – I love using the site to search for ideas and creating scrap books of inspiration for my up-cycles. Be as specific or as coy as you like with your searches, Pinterest never fails to point me in the right direction.

Don’t be completely tech savvy – you can’t beat scribbling down ideas in a notepad. No matter how ambitious your idea is, just sketch it out, you might find them useful in the future.

Waste nothing

Thinking of chucking that cushion cover you’ve lost interest in? DON’T!! Material isn’t the cheapest so any piece is worth keeping. Obviously if the material is in tatters, you probably won’t get use out of it – potential floor covering? Think of what it could be used for before getting rid.

Remember, material that might not look good in one space may look great in another. I ended up using a duvet cover that was an eye-sore as a bed spread but added character and personality when used to cover my footstool.

Every day is a school day

Up-cycling is one of those things that you learn as you create, so be prepared to problem solve. I’ve been upcycling for the past three years and I’ve had at least one head scratcher moment per project.

The important thing is to keep your cool and think things through – thinking like that will see you to the finish line.


Those are just a handful of tips and my word isn’t gospel, you’ll wok it out along the way and learn the tricks of the trade.

Happy up-cycling.

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