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Decor & Design DIY Projects Your Home

Spotlight on Home Décor Trends: Upcycling

To take advantage of most home décor styles, you've got to shell out the bucks. Not so with upcycling, one of the most interesting (and cost-effective) design trends to come out of the last year or two.

Excuse me, upcycling? What exactly is upcycling? Simple: it's the reuse of items that you've already got. Maybe they're being put to work in a different way in your home at the moment, or maybe they're tucked away in your self-storage unit or somewhere else out of sight. They could even be spare parts or scrap lumber. Let's just say: you've already got the pieces – in some form or fashion – and now's the time to put them to their best use.  

Keep reading for top trouble areas that could possibly benefit from a little upcycling in your home. We've got all the details on how to give new life to your old stuff – and get in on this fun design trend while you're at it.

Personal Item Storage

We're CubeSmart! What did you think was gonna be first on our list? Personal items (like books, decorative objects, toiletries, and jewelry) can be hard to harness in any sort of streamlined way. Leaving them lying about can also create serious clutter seriously quickly.

Our favorite upcycling tricks for these items include repurposing ladders, crates, planks, or other wood scraps into shelves or built-in units. Pick up a few brackets, hinges, and other hardware from a local antique dealer or big-box retailer (depending on which home décor style you're into), look up a tutorial on YouTube, and voila: chaos contained.

woman measuring with vice grips

Bonus: you can paint or decorate the wood any way you'd like to fit your style and budget.

Indoor/Outdoor Plant Containers

If there's one recent design trend we love, it's upcycling just about anything and everything into a plant container. If it can hold dirt, it can hold a plant. We've seen objects from antique tea kettles (below) to spray-painted metal coffee cans to baby doll heads used for indoor plants (reserving judgment on that last one). If you've got a wet saw (and who doesn't?), you can even create succulent planters out of old wine bottles. Talk about recycling!
tea pots holding succulents

Upcycled outdoor planters can be just as fun. Think painted tires, rubber boots, hanging colanders, or even an old bike with a basket overflowing with flowers. If your chosen container doesn't have a hole in it for drainage, look up how to drill into the material (including what type of drill bit to use). There are plenty of written or video instructions online to follow, or you can always ask at your local hardware store if you get stuck. They might not know exactly how to drill into baby doll heads, but they'll probably be able to point you in the right direction.

Electric and Candle Lighting

You don't have to be a licensed electrician to upcycle a variety of common household items into cool hanging, standing, or desk lighting solutions. You can buy hanging light kits from retailers like IKEA and add your own colander, paint can, or other salvaged objects as the shade. Or, simply invest in a few strands of holiday electrical lights and stuff clear jars (see below) or wine bottles with them for instant home décor style and upcycled ambiance.
string lights in jars

If you're also a fan of coziness and looking for ways to practice the Danish lifestyle trend hygge, check out this great tutorial on how to up your upcycled candle game. After you scrape the wax out of old containers for reuse, you can also repurpose the jars themselves for anything from a toothbrush or makeup brush holders to desk caddies to planters. Oftentimes, the containers are actually really beautiful design pieces that are definitely ripe for repurposing.

Gardening

Gardening can be a very expensive hobby, so most gardeners are pretty good at making do with what they've got. There are always a number of items lying around the house or tucked away in the storage unit that can be upcycled in surprising (and surprisingly functional) ways in the garden. We already covered basic planters, but raised beds are another item that can be quickly – and craftily – constructed from scrap material or old furniture. If you've got discarded windows lying around, they can be the starting point to a DIY cold frame construction project. (Cold frames help extend your growing season.)

Another way to make use of the upcycling design trend in your gardening is to gather old cans or cartons to start seeds in come spring (see below).

tin can gardening pots

As you can see, there's no need to buy expensive pots for that sleek seedling style. Heck, all you've got to do is eat some soup. Metal cans with their labels peeled off add just the right amount of urban, upcycled chic to the garden.

Furniture

If you've got old furniture around that needs an update in terms of how it looks or how it works, upcycling to make it function better for your needs or style is a great choice. If the piece is still providing you with what you need, you can give it a surface refresh with spray paint or stencils. However, if the piece needs to be totally rethought, you're going to want to give it your creative best. We're talking about splitting a desk into nightstands. Storing your books in a TV cabinet.  Building a bench from old chairs (see below).

colorful wood dining chairs turned into a sitting bench

If you don't have old or nonfunctional furniture to upcycle, you can always get crafty with scrap materials or pallets. We love the idea of a painted pallet coffee table on casters and covered with glass (see below).

pallet coffee table

Of course, pallets are kind of an upcycler's dream material. You can do just about anything with them. Think of hanging painted pallets vertically on the wall for tool storage, constructing a pallet bookshelf or headboard, or even installing broken down, sanded, and finished pallet pieces as paneling or backsplash.

It may take some imagination, but the end result of upcycling furniture (or building it from upcycled materials) will no doubt be a fun and creative addition to your home.   

What ways have you found to take advantage of the upcycling home décor trend? Let us know in the comments or on social media (@cubesmart).

About the author

Bree Neely

Bree Neely is a communications expert and former Brooklynite based out of Denver, Colorado. She is co-founder of Direct Object, a marketing firm serving national B2B and B2C clients. When not tapping away at her keyboard, she keeps busy traveling, skiing and overseeing a variety of children and animals.

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