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Your Upcycling Starter Guide

Updated: May 31, 2023

You know that feeling when your eyes land on something old, tired, but rich in history and possibility?

It could be a dresser, a photo frame, a piece of clothing or something unique you found at the local thrift store. Whatever it is, you feel drawn to restoring life and style back into it, returning it to its former glory, or better. Whether you love thrift stores, or garage sales, or browsing online second-hand shops or auctions - I've created an upcycling starter guide to help you begin your journey of restoring the old into the new.

For me, I love repurposing furniture and home decor pieces, taking vintage, antique or plain old tired items and transforming them into something beautiful, practical and, of course, useable once more. The creative process behind this kind of transformation is everything.

Today, I'm going to share a behind the scenes look at what works best for me, advice that has helped me turn my love of upcycling into a profitable business.

To begin, if you haven't heard of the term upcycling, it is the act of reusing and repurposing something old, something that looks worn out, or something that is outdated, and turning it into something lovely, appealing and useable again. How is this done? Here is my go-to list for getting started in a way that feels fun, doable and your most creative!

1. Start Small.

There is no need to begin on a large dresser that needs hours and hours of work. Instead, start small, choosing a simple, inexpensive item you can practice on. A picture frame or an interesting vase are good options for your starter pieces. You can use techniques like sanding, painting or adding stencilled graphics to bring these pieces back to life.

2. Look For Good Bones.

It's important to choose pieces that are of good quality, are not broken (unless you know an easy way to fix them) and can withstand time and the amount of repurposing you're going to do to them. For me, I always choose dressers that are well-made and in good shape in terms of their 'bones' as I am all about restoring the exterior look and not the physical structure. Keep this in mind as you browse. Choose items that will last for years to come without extensive work on your part.

3. See Beyond the Obvious.

That being said, it's key to look beyond an exterior that looks worn out, outdated, or just plan ugly, to the vision of what it could be. It's amazing what a new coat of paint or a completely different colour will do to a piece! You've got to look for the potential in a piece and a little imagination goes a long way! I recommend doing research beforehand to get ideas before you shop. Sometimes if you know you're looking for a mirror that you're going to turn into a coffee table, your search will go so much smoother.

4. Consider the Piece’s Purpose.

It's fun to collect interesting things but a savvy upcycler is aware of the purpose of each piece they find. You can ask yourself: Is this decor? Does it have a use? Where would you or your buyer place this in their space? Again, look beyond the piece itself to what it will become after you've repurposed it.

5. Determine the Look You’re Going For

It is helpful to consider what style or look you are trying to achieve as you begin thrifting. Is your style more bohemian or more minimalist? Are you more into eclectic vintage finds or practical pieces? When you're aware of your style, you can narrow down your search, while also remembering, you often find the most interesting things in unexpected places! Researching your look beforehand can also give you some great ideas.

6. Search For Bargains.

There are a lot of people getting rid of items they no longer want and a lot of thrift stores with amazing deals. Looking for bargains will help you stick to a budget. With upcycling, you're investing time, energy and materials needed for restoring the piece, so you want to account for that when taking on a project and when purchasing an item.

7. Be Brave!

Lastly, take the risk! Be brave with your upcycling ventures. Know that most items can be changed, fixed or redone if you don't like the look you created. It truly is about fun, experimentation and saving pieces from the landfill. So be easy on yourself, dive in and let that creativity flow!

Saving a piece from the waste, reimagining it into something beautiful once more and renewing its purpose, brings us so much joy. It's a rewarding process that may just be calling your name too and if you're drawn to interesting old things, like me, why not take the leap?

If you have any questions about my favourite stores, material or paints I use in the upcycling process, don't hesitate to reach out!

Happy thrifting,

- Bev, Furniture at 151

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