Reduce, reuse, recycle – we all know we should do more of it, and if you’re about to embark on a renovation, there’s a good chance there will be opportunities to not just reduce and recycle, but also upcycle. Help the planet by reducing your waste, recycling older materials and items in your home, and upcycling either your own furniture and accessories, or
The decluttering movement that gripped the world a year or so ago (thanks Marie Kondo) means many of us have decided clutter is bad and unloved and seldom-used items must be thrown out, but upcycling requires us to reconsider this. Upcycling is simply repurposing or restoring old material that seems to have outlived its use, and giving it new life. It’s good for the planet, and good for your budget. And even the most inexperienced DIYer can take on and conquer an upcycling project.
Perfect paint partners
Ready to try some upcycling? Dulux has made it easy to unleash your creativity by adding textural effects to furniture and accessories with the Design Effects paint range.
Design Copper Effect can be applied in different ways to achieve a stunning coppery look, while Dulux’s stone effects mimic the natural look and texture of stone. The metallic effect paints create the look of glimmering metal and the chalk effect paints can be used to achieve a vintage distressed look with bright pastels.
Dulux Colour Expert Andrea Lucena-Orr says one of the biggest home design trends she is seeing is the return to earthy tones and raw-look finishes in interiors. “Natural and imperfect finishes, such as stone, concrete and an aged patina effect on rust and copper is ever popular,” she says. “As such, lush displays of indoor plants, which also lends itself to this trend, really pops when offset against planters, side tables and coffee tables in aged copper and natural stone finishes, particularly Dulux Design in Copper and Stone Effects.
“If you like a distressed, rustic and imperfect look, but prefer gentle and liveable pastels, try upcycling larger items of furniture such as a wardrobes, buffets or bedside tables in Dulux Design Chalk Effect. For a touch of luxe, Dulux’s Metallic Effect comes in nine finishes, which allows you to reproduce the look of glimmering metal with minimal hassle and expense – perfect for side tables and bed frames through to decorative accessories, such as vessels and planters.”
Need some upcycling inspiration? Then get your hands on a copy of Max McMurdo’s book Upcycling: 20 Creative Projects Made from Reclaimed Materials. Mr McMurdo is a designer and upcycling professional and the projects in this book will inspire you to roll up your sleeves and have a go.
It’s time to recycle and upcycle
According to RMIT University, in 2017, the Australian construction industry generated 20.4 million tons of waste from construction and demolition. This isn’t just housing waste (that figure also includes road and rail maintenance and land excavation waste), however, it’s clear that any type of construction generates its fair share of rubbish. The stats show that of this 20.4 million tons (or megatonnes) of waste, almost seven million tons went to landfill. The rest was recycled, reused or illegally dumped.
Up to 50 per cent of landfill is from construction and domestic renovations and as a nation we need to do better to deal with this waste.
As an individual and a renovator, there is a lot you can do. And it starts during demolition. When removing that old kitchen or bathroom, take the time to separate materials that can be recycled, rather than dumping it all in the skip. Look for businesses who will take your old taps and sinks, cabinets and doors and reuse or redistribute those materials.
If you are renovating your home and you want to do so by causing as little damage to the environment as possible, there are loads of things you can do to reuse, recycle and upcycle. An environmentally friendly building project is possible. And don’t worry, if the shabby chic look isn’t for you, you can do heaps of things to make sure your home looks as stylish at the end as if you’d used all new products. New building products are often filled with toxic chemicals and volatile organic compounds, so reusing is also good for your health. Here are some ideas:
- For a start, choose a builder who is open to the idea of using sustainable and recycled products. That way they can also help find the right products.
- Talk to your builder about using building products made from recycled materials. Insulation is a good example of a product that is made from totally recycled resources – there is cellulose insulation made from recycled newspapers, and other insulation products made from recycled glass and plastic.
- If you’re using timber flooring and other timber in the home, the least you can do is ensure that your timber comes from sustainable resources, but you can go a step further by using reclaimed and recycled timber.
- Repair and repaint cabinetry, rather than buying new. Be sure to choose low-VOC paint.
- Buy second-hand furniture – and we’re not just talking tired old timber furniture and antiques. You’ll be surprised what some people are selling when you start looking – you might find someone who bought a lounge and it’s too big for their house, or they are moving or downsizing and getting rid of furniture that’s almost new. A bit of research can unearth some beauties and save you plenty of cash.
Upcycling project tips
- When looking for materials to upcycle, some types of waste (such as furniture and doors, especially those made from timber) are easier to work with than others, but keep an open mind – an old bathtub could become a garden bed, a tin can be reborn as a bird feeder, or buckets could become water features. Or you could simply repaint furniture.
- For upcycling ideas, head to Pinterest and watch videos on YouTube. Someone else has done all the work coming up with creative ideas and there’s nothing wrong with borrowing them. You’ll be surprised what people have made out of seemingly useless items.
- As a new upcycler, start with small, manageable projects until you gain more confidence. Sanding, waxing, polishing and painting require no experience or special tools.
- If you’re handy with a drill and hammer, timber pallets make great vertical planters, coffee tables and chairs.
- Got ugly vases? Spray-paint them in gold or metallic shades and give them new life.
- Turn a wooden box on its side, add timber legs and you’ve got yourself a side table.
- A kitchen cabinet can be repainted and turned into a storage chest.
- To create continuity in the home, choose a colour scheme for your upcycled pieces and stick to it – that way everything will tie together and you’ll avoid that mismatched shabby chic look.