The Joy of Upcycling

IMG_0242There is recycling and then there is upcycling. We are all familiar with recycling in the home but upcycling is something else entirely.

The “Upcycling Movement” definition of upcycling is as follows:“…the repurposing of items that may otherwise be seen as “waste”. It is the process of converting these materials or “useless” products of higher value and quality, giving them a new purpose and most importantly avoiding adding them to landfill.”

I like to think of it as making something even better (sometimes more useful, sometimes prettier) than it was before.

Although the current economic situation (I refuse to use the R word, it will not be a feature of this blog) would have us believe that the current surge in upcycling is purely out of financial necessity the reality is that designers have been doing this for years. In Senior College Dún Laoghaire (SCD) where I teach interior design, first year design students have been having a one day workshop for many years.

Students of Senior College Dún Laoghaire Upcycling Project

Students of Senior College Dún Laoghaire Upcycling Project


Gallerie Lisette

This workshop is run by Lucina Lennon of Gallerie Lisette, Enniskerry, Co.Wicklow. In it Lucina covers a wide range of paint finishes and techniques and demonstrates how you can use your new found skills at home. Now you can do it too. Together with her mum Aida, Lucina combines her passion for creating and designing with teaching, running courses which range from sewing techniques, furniture restoration and up cycling furniture and textile items. If you don’t feel like doing the hardwork yourself (and it is hard work!) you can purchase some items that they have already completed for you.

upside 1

Upside Design

Also involved in using paint effects to reinvent and reuse old furniture and make them into something that works in todays interiors are two graduates from SCD who have set up in business in Dalkey. Their company is called Upside Design. They run workshops as well as selling a range of ready to go items. They also offer an upcycling service if you have an item or items you would like them to transform. They have a shop located in Dalkey village with a great bright and airy workshop space behind. If you are quick off the mark you can book in for a free session as part of the Dalkey Book Festival, on Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th June 2013 from 10.30-1pm and from 2.30 till 5pm. You can bring a piece of furniture along and paint it for free.

Sign up on their website to register, places are limited so early booking is recommended.

They use the absolutely fabulous range of chalk paints by Annie Sloan which removes the need to prime timber furniture, gives a lovely finish and comes in a great range of colours. Sometimes in order to transform a piece of furniture it can be enough to just change the knobs. Whilst before these were speciality items which had to be ordered on line they are now popping up all over the place. Dunnes Stores has some in its Cd eclectic range at the moment and Knobs and Knockers on Nassau street has a wide range. Local hardware stores will have a variety of timber knobs that are inexpensive and with a lick of paint can be really successful. (stripes and spots in clashing colours are in at the moment but could easily be changed next year if you tire of them.)

In the “here’s one I did earlier mode” you can see the results some of my own efforts. The table was purchased in the Oxfam shop on Francis Street in Dublin and I painted it using Annie Sloan “Original” before creating stripes with a variety of paint sample pots that I had built up.  The completed product was then waxed using Annie Sloan light wax.

table before

Table Before

table during

Table during

table after

and after…

The second was a bedroom dressing table that I bought at an auction many years ago. It was in my youngest daughters bedroom until recently when it was converted into a wash stand for our guest bathroom. A recess was cut out of the top to mount a wash hand basin underneath and the mirror which was fixed to the table top was removed and placed on the wall above. It’s a bit rough and ready but that is part of its charm. (see photo in blog entry dated May 21 2013 )

Anyway now that you have seen how you too can learn the skills I hope you will be rushing out to get those creative juices flowing. My advice is to tackle something small first to build your confidence and after that there will be no stopping you!

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