Upcycling – the simple, cheap way to furnish a room


Upcycling – the simple, cheap way to furnish a room

Picture this: you’ve just finished remodelling or redecorating your house, or maybe even adding an extra room with an extension. The next step is to furnish it, but how do you do that without spending even more cash?

Upcycling, that’s how! The idea of upcycling is to take something that is destined for the rubbish tip and turn it into something beautiful, useful or, even better, both. So, how exactly do you upcycle and where can you get the stuff you’ll need from?


The first thing you should think about is using any old furniture you’ve already got hanging around. Could you give that old chest of drawers a lick of paint, or some stencilling to make it come alive again? Or, what about that grimy old chair that’s been hanging around the living room for years. A fresh coat of paint and a new cover could be all it needs to fit right in.

Next, get up in your loft, if you have one, and have a good mooch around – you never know what you’ll find. And, if you’ve got a garage or shed, have a root around in there too. There could be all kinds of things you’ve forgotten about.

Free stuff

There are some other great places to find free furniture if you’ve nothing hiding in your house. Over the past few years, a number of websites have popped up where people who have things to give away can advertise them to those who want free stuff. The main ones are:

√ freecycle     √ snaffle         √ craiglist

√ freegle        √ preloved      √ gumtree

There’s also the Furniture Reuse Network, which is a dedicated network of people wanting to reduce waste and make a positive impact on the environment, which is another great feature of upcycling – you’ll be doing your bit for the environment too.

Ask friends and family

Why not ask your friends and family if they have any bits and pieces they no longer want. Who knows what you might end up with and they may just be really glad that you can take it off their hands.

Charity Shops

Charity shops are another gold-mine for old bits of things you can do up. Of course, you will have to pay for things from charity shops, but the cost is a fraction of the price of new and shops like The British Heart Foundation, will deliver too. Oxfam have a similar service – here’s a list of their furniture shops.

Change your perspective

Look at things in a new way, it’s what’s known as re-purposing. Have a think about what you could turn that old cot into – could it become a writing table maybe? Or could that old ottoman become a coffee table if you just give it a lick of paint or add some decoupage. 

What to do with it once you’ve got it    

Once you’ve found something you fancy upcycling, there are all kinds of things you can do with it. If you’re a novice at upcycling, there are loads of videos on YouTube showing you what can be achieved. Have a look at this video showing you how to upcycle a corner unit, or this one showing you how to change a piece of furniture’s look with decoupage

And, if you think you might like to learn a little more about upcycling techniques, under the supervision of an expert, there are courses you can attend. Like this one, offered by Chester based charity, Revive on furniture decorating techniques. Or this basic chalk painting workshop in Hailsham, East Sussex. The School of Stuff in London offer courses in upholstery and furniture restoration and recycling, which can be one day taster sessions, weekly courses or year-long courses for those who are thinking about a career change.  


Now you know the techniques all you need are some ideas. So here are some places to find inspiration. Here’s one pintrest board to get you going, but there are lots of others, just type upcycling into the search engine to find them all. Magazines on the subject are another good place for inspiration. Check out Upcycle magazine, Upcyclethat and Upcyclista.