Saturday, 20 September 2014

Upcycling ~ Not Just for Vintage Finds

 I first started hearing the term 'upcycling' a few years ago, around the time that pinterest was born. The word upcycle- a sort of combination of words like recycle and uplift or upscale- means to convert a product (generally a waste product or useless item) into something of better quality. Just look up 'upcycle' on pinterest and you'll find pages of project ideas: knotty pine dressers left over from the 1980's painted in a lovely light mint, the cheap brass hardware switched out in favour of chic glass knobs; ugly old chandeliers spray painted from top to bottom in bright pink, the out-dated crystal suddenly transformed into a funky fixture for a girl's room- you get the idea!

Upcycling is a great way to transform old things, thrift finds or family heirlooms, into exactly what you want them to be. But that's not what I want to talk about. Today I want to talk about upcycling NEW things. Taking something new and making it over may not fit into the exact definition of what upcycling is, but that's not important. And anyway, I would argue that some of the new items we buy at Walmart are pretty darn close to waste materials!

If you're someone who is always giving new life to thrift store and yard sale items, I encourage you to do the same for your brand new ones! Not all of us can afford cool designer home items, and the stuff from places like Home Depot and Target might be functional, but the finishes are cheap, boring and predictable. If I see one more light fixture painted in a faux bronze I will puke! What's a girl to do?

Start upcycling new stuff, of course! Here are a few examples.
First, meet my bathroom light fixture:

It doesn't get much worse than this! 
So I bought this. (Home Depot, $30). It took me a long time to find the right fixture for our bathroom, and the solution came in the form of an outdoor lantern.
But it had the dreaded bronze finish. Ugh.
Luckily, the simple design made it an easy spray paint project. 
I chose a very dark grey. Liquitex spray paint can be found at art stores and comes in ever colour of the rainbow. 
I cleaned the fixture with varsol and steel wool, and prepped for painting.
Liquitex is low odour, so for small projects it is fine to paint inside. This is my painting station. 
The dark grey is simple and sophisticated. I also thought about painting my fixture hunter green, gloss white, cobalt blue or gold- all great options that would have elevated this cheap factory light fixture. 
Of course, taking the old light down was no picnic. A large area of the wall needed repair.
Chris installs the new fixture.
And, ugh, the hole in the wall is visible, more work, more putty! I spent a few days casually repairing the wall with putty, sandpaper and paint. 
Here is our cool new fixture. The faux bronze outdoor lantern is now painted a sexy dark grey and hung in the bathroom! I actually think that my overall point (in regards to this blog post) my have been a bit stronger if I had painted this fixture in a brighter colour (it's not like you can't find a dark grey fixture at the store), but I chose exactly what I wanted for my space - and that is what you can't buy at the store. 

And now...
here's another example of a cheap and boring, but otherwise brand new product that was in desperate need of a makeover before it could become part of our home:

I spotted this poo brown microfiber ottoman on sale for only $80 at Zellers (when the store was going out of business). 

It also came in a nice shade of 'I-am-terrified-of-colours' beige. 
We bought some upholstery fabric (on sale at Fabric Land) and re-covered the base and lid. Square or rectangular objects tend to make good re-covering projects for those of us who don't know the first thing about professional reupholstering. We used a staple gun to attach the fabric, and the ottoman has held up well for over three years. (Here, you can see it in our Stratford apartment).

And here it is in our current living room. I love the periwinkle blue.

The best part is that when it gets dirty, or the colour becomes tiresome, I can just re-do it. I think next time I'll go for light grey or salmon pink. 

To sum up, I may despise the inescapable beige and bronze finishes that I find on my new purchases. But the truth is that unless I want to pay for designer products, which very often do feature interesting forms and playful colours, I'll have to stick to adding the pop of colour myself. And I can't say I mind.

Next time you see a super cool pair of bright blue vanity scones, or you notice a set of shiny yellow bar stools, think about whether they are worth the high price. Are you just paying for the bold colour? Could you get a similar set of stools in unfinished metal and just add a few cans of spray paint to your discount purchase? I think so.
I think so.

Here are a few more photos of the bathroom (now that the hideous fixture has been replaced)!

Thanks for reading!