How Upcycling Can Add Pizzazz to Your Home Decor

My good buddy, Leslie, who spent years working in the home staging industry suggested I do a blog post on upcycling.  I told her that was a great idea!  Then I quickly went home to google “upcycling.”

The first post I found was about repurposing toilet paper rolls to store things in.

Ewwwww.  Not what I was thinking.

But I kept going on the research, figuring that I could get creative, be politically correct and save the planet all at the same time by learning how to upcycle.

Wikipedia defines upcycling as creative reuse—the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.

I think of upcycling as finding something intriguing at a flea market or resale shop and turning it into something much more intriguing.  And possibly useful.  The best thing about upcycling?  You can bandy the word “upcycling” about and everyone will realize how impossibly hip you are.

Leslie sent me some images to illustrate the concept of upcycling in the home decor world.


Turbine Tables

Upcycled Cocktail Table

These turbines were spotted in a factory, a base was added and they were topped with custom glass.  Voila—coffee tables!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t hang out in factories a lot.  However, we can see the advantages of doing so.  I’d put these tables in front of a light colored couch in a solid fabric.  Note:  unless you are a weight-lifter, you won’t want to place the turbine table in front of a sleeper sofa.  Because when you open the sleeper, you’ll need to move the tables…..


Ceiling Tiles

Repurposed Wall Pieces

Sourced from a resale shop that specializes in reclaimed building materials, these tiles were attached to the wall and arranged as a headboard display.

Lots to love about this display:  it has texture, a variety of color, and it’s attached to the wall.  As in, it doesn’t have to be moved the clean under the bed.


Barrel Rings

Upcycled Wall Art

These rings originally held a wooden barrel together, but now have been repurposed and arranged on the wall as art.

These rings would pair well with a leather sofa bed or leather sleeper chair.

So the only issue I see with this item is that you’d have to drink a lot of beer, whiskey or wine to come up with that many barrel rings.  And I don’t like beer.   But there must be some place that old barrels go to die, and that’s where you could get ahold of these rings.  So this project needs a bit more research.  But for all of you beer, whiskey and/or wine drinkers out there, research could be a lot of fun.  For the simpler approach, maybe visit your local winery or distillery.


Painted Pillows

Upcycled Painted Pillows

These pillows started life as paintings on canvas.  The frame was removed, a backing added, zipper, stuffing……….and you have pillows!

If you sew, you’ll know where to get the supplies.  And if you don’t sew (like me), then you probably have a friend who does.  Trade favors.  This is a cool idea.

These pillows would sit beautifully on top of a sofa in white or cream fabric.  Imagine museum walls and shop accordingly.


Card Catalog Nightstands

Upcycled Night Stand

These two metal card catalogs were cleaned up and protected with a varnish to preserve the rustic patina.  They are now being used as night stands.

This is also an opportunity to teach anyone born after 1980 the joys of the Dewey Decimal System.


Repurposed Coffee Table

Upcycled Coffee Table

This table was originally part of a bed in the Philippines.  It is a piece of rough-hewn wood, about 4 1/2 feet long.  Metal legs were fabricated to convert it into a very sturdy table.   You could accent the rugged look of the table with a casual, wood-accented couch, or go for contrast and choose sleek, more formal upholstery.

As I’m not a metal worker, nor a seamstress, some of these projects are out of my league.  I can always find and hire those folks, but I pressed Leslie for some upcycling projects that could be done in a day, with minimal skill and funding.  Fortunately, Leslie has a huge photo library and she found me a few projects for those of us with less time, patience and proper tools:


Birdcage Candle Holders

Repurposed Candle Holders

Here’s a doable project.  Take some old metal birdcages, put them on a metal charger plate, surround a large candle with smooth stones or seashells and you’ve got a set of very cool candle holders or a unique centerpiece.  I’d probably clean the daylights out of the birdcages before I let them anywhere near my kitchen, but this is a possibility.  And I never seem to have a centerpiece—so extra points for this idea.


Upcycling Collections

Collection Showcase

The simplest idea of all is to create a collection of something.  You recycle them for their sculptural nature, amass a lot of them, and display them in a clear bowl.  Old game pieces, buttons, dice, or old vacuum tubes.  They have just been elevated to Art.  A trip or two to the thrift shop or antique mall and you are in business.  For a person like me, with an obsession for collecting, this is a license to shop.  I’m starting in on this idea today.

Here are a few local (we are in Seattle) resources, with online access for those of you who are not fortunate enough to live in the Pacific Northwest:

Second Use.  They reclaim building materials for reuse.  Great way to spend an afternoon browsing and imagining what items you could upcycle into others.

The RE Store.  They even have a Revision Division where they’ve built hand-crafted furniture from reclaimed materials, saving you the trouble.

Earthwise Architectural Salvage.  Retail warehouses in both Seattle and Tacoma, full of vintage and new building materials, in addition to a diverse assortment of architectural antiques.

The ever-popular and ubiquitous Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul and Value Village will have lots of old junk, I mean great materials, to work with.

Special Shout-out to Jon Rosichelli of Rosichelli Design for his creative design and staging,  and many thanks to Leslie Saber of SaberShots Photography for the wonderful ideas and photos.

Go forth and go green!

Meryl Alcabes, Sleepers In Seattle

About Meryl Alcabes

Twenty-five years ago, Meryl Alcabes launched Also Furniture with her husband Carlos. They were new to retail and new to the furniture industry, so the first few years of business were a challenge. However, with her art school background and gregarious personality, Meryl loved the combination of meeting new people and helping them design their living spaces by focusing on appropriate colors and styles for each situation.

When Meryl and Carlos were first married and found their dream apartment in San Francisco, they could only afford one new furniture item a month. The very first thing they purchased was a sleeper sofa, which they used as a bed at night and for seating during the day. After a few years in the furniture business, Meryl realized that sleeper sofas were a must for most apartment and condo dwellers, and they were hard to find—so the couple decided to specialize in sofa beds and Sleepers In Seattle was launched.

Two of Meryl and Carlos’s sons, Max and Jacques, have since joined the firm, which has expanded in many directions with Savvy Home. Meryl’s interests include photography and collage, in addition to cooking for her family and friends and frequent entertaining. Dinner table discussion always includes furniture talk and speculation about when their third son, Raphael, will join the business.
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