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Don’t just recycle, Upcycle

Don’t let boring furniture bring you down – with a bit of imagination and some elbow grease you can upcycle it into something amazing in no time. Try these design projects out…

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A Paul Klee-inspired dotty chest

Chalk paint creator Annie Sloan was inspired to create this chest of drawers after seeing avant garde artist Paul Klee’s watercolour, Polyphony (1932).

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  1. Find a fairly modern chest of drawers to upcycle and paint the entire chest with Chalk Paint Decorative Paint by Annie Sloan in Paris Grey (from £5.95 a pot, to provide a good neutral background.
  2. Rip off large flaps from cardboard boxes and paint onto them. Then press the cardboard squares onto the cabinet to give a slightly uneven effect.
  3. When the entire area is covered, roughly apply the same colours onto some bubble wrap and press the ‘tips’ of the bubble wrap onto the surface of the chest of drawers to create the dot effects.

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Skateboard shelves

Upcycle That ( collaborated with Bacardi to turn these skateboard into a suspended shelves drinks cabinet, but we’d like them in our own home, too. Best of all, it’s dead easy to do.

  1. Take three old skateboard decks and stack them in the order that you want to hang them; add new grip tape if you want to freshen up the look of the decks.
  2. Working from the bottom of your lowest deck, thread one length of 1/8” aircraft cable (at least 4 feet long) through the pair of outer holes, where the wheels were once screwed in. Pull the cable taut to make a tight loop at the bottom of the cable and each side of the wire is even. Repeat on the other end of the deck.
  3. Unscrew the bolts of four 1/8” wire rope clamps and tighten them snugly around the cables above the skateboard.
  4. Measure 14 inches up the cable and mark the point with a marker pen on all four cables. Secure wire clamps to the spots, then thread the cables through the bottom of the next deck.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 to secure the final two boards in place. Then measure 14 inches up again (or as long a length as you want your shelves to hang down from the ceiling), add four 1/8” wire rope clips (to form a loop) and secure with clamps.
  6. Drill four hooks into the ceiling and hang your shelves (

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Crate storage

Old crates are a mine of creativity, Stack them on their sides to create a quirky shelving unit, like this one from Great British design brand Loaf, add wheels the bottom to make drawers, screw four of them together, each facing outwards to create a coffee table with shelving for magazines underneath.

You can pick up old crates in junk shops or buy these pretty, vintage-looking ones (from £12.50,

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Create an interesting wall display with old fruit crates by first sanding down any splinters; then paint the inside back of the crate with two coats of Curpinol Garden Shades Forest Mushroom and Warm Flax. Lastly screw them together and fix them to the wall using shelf brackets and screws if you choose, in any configuration that you like.




Half-painted furniture

Brown wooden furniture looks old-fashioned, but completely painted wooden furniture can look a bit “Changing Rooms”. For a modern update, try “dipping” the legs of a chair or table in bright colours – use masking tape to get a clean finish and then sand and paint the lower half of the legs. Mix and match your chairs for a really contemporary look.

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Or paint the top half of the chair – the seat and back of this retro British cult design Ercol chair have been sanded and then painted in Farrow and Ball’s St Giles Blue (£38,


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Jam jar mugs

If you haven’t heard of Sugru (£12.99,, you soon will. The mouldable, play-dough like glue sticks to virtually anything and is great for repairs and for modifying and upcycling everyday items.

  1. Take an old jam jar, remove the label and glue and thoroughly clean and dry it.
  2. Bend a fork into a handle shape.
  3. Mould a ball of Sugru about the size of a ten pence piece into as round a sphere as you can. Mould a second one the size of five pence piece.
  4. Stick the larger ball of sugru onto the jar where you want the top of your handle to be then press the jar against a flat surface to flatten the ball; stick the small ball onto the base end of the fork handle.
  5. Press the fork handle onto the Sugru and leave it to set for 24 hours before using it – because Sugru doesn’t conduct heat you can use your mug for tea and coffee without the handle getting hot.



My favourite upcyclers

Like the look but lack the DIY gene? Then buy a unique piece of furniture from one of these talented upcyclers, instead.


Ursh Stevens – whose fans include Theo Paphitis and Jacqueline Gold – upcycles pre-loved furniture and scrapyard finds into quirky pieces of art and practical-but-cool everyday items – shop mannequin standard lamp anyone?

Florrie + Bill

British designer Amy Cawson takes vintage furniture – think mid-century Danish armchairs and Sixties’ G-Plan – restores it, and then breathes new life into it with modern fabric.

Trong Upcycling

Find Jez’ fab snowboard benches, golf club coat hooks and petrol can mini bars at


This article appeared in Metro on 26 May

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