Done in a Day:
Done in a Day: Upcycle & Repurpose
By Cindy Reid
Many people have observed that one common consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic is that everyone stayed in, looked around at their home and decided to make some changes. From freshening the paint to renovating the kitchen, a lot of people went all in for a home update.
But not everyone could—or even wanted to—make big expensive changes. Cleaning out the closets was enough for many and the thrift shops benefited from an unprecedented rise in donations. Today more than ever, thrift shops are filled with items that can easily be rehomed and utilized, especially after a little sprucing up. It’s time to take advantage of this inexpensive bounty and bring something “new to you” home.
Most thrifted items need a little TLC, and a simple Google search will yield thousands of great upcycling and repurposing ideas. This article has gathered together a few of the more interesting, and easy, ones that could be done in a day. And if you are going to invest your time and money on a ‘done in a day’ project, it’s helpful to check in with what’s current.
Across the board decorators are saying the look of natural materials like wood and metal, as well as understated color palettes and design elements are ‘in’. In addition to warm taupe and beige, chocolate browns, camels, and caramels are the colors to incorporate this year.
For those who prefer a pop of color, the ‘hot’ new bright hues are lovely against these warm woody colors. In fabric- upholstery, curtains and throw pillows- bright nostalgic floral patterns look swell against these muted background colors.
Simplicity and calm colors to enhance the minimalist style is what the decorating world is touting. Of course, your heart may be firmly in rustic farmhouse or upscale coastal, or family with kids and pets and design trends are slightly ridiculous! Use your best instincts to create something unique to you.
What is the difference between upcycling and repurposing?
Repurposing is similar to upcycling but not the same. To upcycle something is to make it better while it still performs the same purpose. Repurposing changes an object’s function—or purpose—entirely. Here are a few ideas to illustrate the difference and get you started.
- Use foam pool noodles to baby-proof your home. Cut the tube to length and slip it onto edges and corners. They also make great boot shapers.
- Paint an old coffee table and use as a base for a dollhouse or Lego play.
- A solid old door, refinished and hung sideways, becomes a unique headboard for a bed. A strip of crown molding along the top edge offers a neat finish.
- Add very short legs to a large dresser drawer and it becomes a dog bed.
- A small dresser drawer can be mounted empty space out, pull on top, and become a shelf.
- Wooden cutting boards can be repurposed into a chalkboard. Use chalk paint, add a hook, and you have an instant way to make notes in the kitchen.
- A larger cutting board can become a functional serving tray by adding handles from the hardware store.
- Gift bags can be used as lunch bags, a place to gather magazines to be read later or first aid kits. Remove the handles and they can be used as wrapping paper, book covers or cut into origami squares.
- Large picture frames, filled with plywood and upholstered, can become a twin bed headboard.
- Small picture frames can be filled with wood and become a decorative tray.
- Linens, such as comforters and sheets can be used for many purposes. Cut up for soft cleaning cloths, fabric for crafts, dog beds, or simply cut a hole in the middle of the sheet and use it like a coverall/poncho while painting.
- China plates make interesting three-dimensional wall art. Get some plate hangers and try a mismatched assortment for an eclectic look, or go all white/ all red/all green etc.
- Spray paint the center of a large plate with chalkboard paint for a pretty place to write messages or a personalized centerpiece.
- Make your own three-tiered stand by gluing three plates and upturned cups or candlesticks together.
- Ceiling fan blades can be made into large dragonflies with paint and a skinny spindle. Paint old fan blades with a fun design like a snowman, welcome sign, or tropical leaf art.
- Rusty metal colanders make an easy outside planter.
- Wooden spoons can be painted and become plant markers or garden art.
- Old fence poles become garden peace poles with colorful paint, by using all the leftover bits from other projects. Their purpose is to spread the message "May Peace Prevail on Earth" and act as a constant reminder to visualize and pray for world peace.
Remember upcycling is when an object is altered or enhanced but still used for its original purpose. This is where an old chair gets a fresh look, and color trends can be especially helpful. For accent pieces the color trends of the moment are essentially all hues of pink / blue/ yellow, and neutral classic whites/sage/charcoal. The idea is to combine and contrast, think yellow base, and charcoal top for a side table or sage legs with pink drawers for a small dresser.
Wall paper is being used as a decorative feature, as the top of an end table under glass or affixed with a craft product such as Modpodge. Hardware is an easy update. Right now, industrial modern hardware, in flat black and stainless steel, is in vogue. Replace old brassy round pulls with sleek brushed metallic square bar pulls for a new look.
- A few upcycle ideas:Reupholster and paint old chairs
- Add new hardware to dressers, cabinets, cupboards
- Paint and rewire (easy with a kit) old lamps. Buffet lamps, which are typically slender, tall, and more than 32 inches in height, are very trendy. Splurge on a new shade, in a metallic or dark color.
- End tables can be uplifted and used everywhere. Add a mirror on top to enhance the light in a room.
- Altered thrift store art is a huge trend. Take a classic (boring) scenic view and add in goofy monsters, historical figures, family photos. If you actually like the art as is, paint the mat and frame to freshen.
- Plastic Little Tikes kitchens, cars, playhouses can be transformed by new paint made especially for plastics. Add thrift store plates and pans for the kitchen. Turn the car into a Batmobile, or a John Deere “tractor” with paint and vinyl stickers.
“Fast Fashion has been the catalyst for a problem which has been brewing for a long time in the textile industry. The apparel industry is second only to the oil industry when it comes to pollution, and this hasn’t gone unnoticed by today’s more environmentally conscious generation. Where once using old, hand-me-down, or second-hand clothes was considered “cheap”, now it is seen as a dedication to sustainability.” (Source: https://immago.com/upcycling-clothes)
One way in which people are being “greener” is by upcycling clothes, and it’s becoming so popular, it’s now an industry by itself. Eileen Fisher, RE/DONE, Urban Outfitters, ASOS are all doing it and you too can upcycle at home with your finds.
Take a look at any home improvement or craft store paint aisle and you will be amazed at the sheer number of paint products now easily available. Glossy, matte, clear finish, rust proof, acrylic, and any other kind such as chalk paint, glass paint, paint for marble and granite effects are available in a wide variety of colors. Acrylic spray paint works on a variety of surfaces including glass, wood, canvas, concrete, plastic, and metal and can sometimes be found in a half sized can for smaller projects. There are specialty items to create a patina or crackle effect. There is even Glow in the dark acrylic paint and Hologram Glitter spray paint!
Decorate hardware can be found at big box hardware stores but don’t forget to look at thrift shop furniture that may have just the retro pulls you are seeking. Hairpin legs for any variety of tabletops are available pretty cheaply online and they can quickly elevate a table from blah to rah!
Area Thrift Stores
Although this is by no means an exhaustive list of local stores, this should get you started on your treasure hunt!
Habitat for Humanity Restore
3605 Highway 21 S.,
Goodwill Retail Store
410 S. Columbia Ave., Suite B,
Acts III Thrift Store
5509 McCall Rd.,
Gypsy June's Vintage Lane
Wee Ones Consignment Event
454 Wisenbaker Rd,
Aunt Tinkie's Antiques & Thrift Shop
102 N Laurel St,
Gios Thrift shop
409 S Laurel St,
Snooks Bargain Spot
109 S Laurel St,
Miss Mable's Mercantile
109 N Laurel St,
Easy Pickins' on Laurel Street
824 S Laurel St,
Keller's Flea Market
5901 Ogeechee Rd,